Philippines surveys damage as Typhoon Mangkhut slows

Typhoon Mangkhut tore across northern Philippines with destructive winds and heavy rain, killing at least 12 people on Saturday, before heading towards Hong Kong and southern China. 

The typhoon victims died mostly in landslides and houses that got pummeled by the storm’s fierce winds and rain, according to presidential advisor Francis Tolentino.

Among the dead were an infant and a 2-year-old child who died with their parents after the couple refused to immediately evacuate from their high-risk community in a mountain town in Nueva Vizcaya province, Tolentino said.

At least two other people were missing, he said, adding that the death toll could climb to at least 16 once other casualty reports were verified.

“My appeal is that we need to heed the advice of the authorities. Stay indoors,” said Tolentino, the government’s main coordinator for disaster response. 

WATCH: Philippines – Disaster Capitalism, Inc (26:00)

Known locally as Ompong, Mangkhut is the most ferocious storm to hit the Philippines this year.

It slammed ashore before dawn on Saturday in Cagayan province on the northeastern tip of Luzon island. At one point, it hit gusts of 305 km/h before it left the Philippines and moved across South China Sea with reduced winds.  

“It felt like the end of the world”, said Bebeth Saquing from her home on Luzon. “I did not sleep,” she told the AFP news agency. 

‘Life and death situation’

About 87,000 people evacuated from high-risk areas of the Philippines.

Officials have advised them not to return home until the lingering danger had passed.

“It’s still a life and death situation,” Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told the Associated Press by phone, citing past drownings in swollen rivers in mountain provinces after storms had passed.

Typhoon Mangkhut left a trail of battered homes, landslides and fallen trees in its wake. [Ted Aljibe/AFP]

On Saturday, authorities were also checking what happened to about 70 men who reportedly returned to their coastal village to check on their homes during dangerous storm surges that saw walls of seawater whipped inland.

Al Jazeera’s Jamela Alindogan, reporting from Cagayan province, said at least 100 families, mostly from fishing and farming villages, had taken shelter in a school.

Mangkhut is the 15th storm to batter the Philippines this year. An average of 20 typhoons hit the country each year.

Authorities are taking extra precautions as they draw comparisons with Typhoon Haiyan, which devastated central areas of the archipelago in 2013, and killed 6,300 people.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said it expects “substantial damage” in the Philippines. 

Airlines in Hong Kong have cancelled hundreds of flights due to the storm, which is expected to come within 200 km of the city on Sunday and wreak havoc on the Asia financial centre and nearby Pearl River Delta.

Hong Kong’s flag carrier Cathay Pacific said all flights from the city would be cancelled on Sunday.

SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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