Thousands flee as typhoon smashes into Philippines


Typhoon Sarika smashed into the main Philippine island of Luzon early Sunday, ripping off roofs, toppling power lines and forcing more than 12,000 people to flee to safer ground, officials said.

Minor landslides and flooding were also reported a day after the cyclone brushed past a remote island and left one person drowned and three others missing, they said.

“The roofs of some house were blown away and power was cut in some areas,” Mina Marasigan, spokeswoman for the government’s National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, told AFP.

“Minor landslides were also reported as well as floods. We’re waiting for the typhoon to blow over to conduct a fuller assessment,” Marasigan added.

Sarika was progressively weakening since making landfall on the east coast town of Baler before dawn Sunday (1830 GMT Saturday) packing winds of 130 kilometres an hour (81 mph), weather forecasters said.

It later raked across mainly mountainous and sparsely populated areas in the morning, and was expected to roar out to the South China Sea in the afternoon.

Marasigan’s disaster agency said nearly 12,500 people left their homes in the typhoon’s path, seeking refuge in government-run shelters and relatives’ homes.

Eleven people were rescued after a boat capsized off the eastern island of Samar on Friday, while about 1,000 boats and 6,500 passengers were stranded at ports as the coast guard barred smaller vessels from putting to sea.

The disaster agency said 290 commercial flights, including 63 to international destinations, were cancelled due to bad weather.

Marasigan also said 23 mountain climbers were rescued in the northern Philippines.

The Philippine islands are often the first major landmass to be hit by storms that generate over the Pacific Ocean. The Southeast Asian archipelago endures about 20 major storms each year, many of them deadly.

Haiyan, the strongest typhoon ever recorded to hit land, smashed into the central Philippines on November 8, 2013, leaving 7,350 people dead or missing.

© 2016 AFP

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