Friday 24 November 2017

Typhoon Koppu kills at least 11 in Philippines

Residents wade through flood waters brought about by Typhoon Koppu at Zaragosa township in Nueva Ecija province north of Manila. (AP)
Residents wade through flood waters brought about by Typhoon Koppu at Zaragosa township in Nueva Ecija province north of Manila. (AP)

At least 11 people are dead after a typhoon in the Philippines forced more than 65,000 villagers from their homes.

Army, police and civilian volunteers rushed to rescue hundreds of villagers trapped in their flooded homes and on rooftops in the northern Philippine province of Aurora, which was battered by slow-moving Typhoon Koppu.

The typhoon blew ashore with fierce wind and heavy rains early on Sunday leaving nine provinces without electricity.

The typhoon weakened once on land, and by Monday afternoon, Koppu had weakened into a tropical storm over Ilocos Norte province with winds of 65 miles per hour and gusts of up to 84 mph.

Several of the affected provinces, led by Nueva Ecija, were inundated by flash floods that swelled rivers and cascaded down mountains, trapping villagers in their homes, said Nigel Lontoc of the Office of Civil Defence.

"There were people who got trapped by the flood on their roofs, some were rescued already," vice mayor Henry Velarde of Nueva Ecija's Jaen town told The Associated Press, adding that about 80% of 27 villages in his farming town of more than 45,000 people were inundated by flood.

When a major river flooded and swamped the villages, residents scrambled to safety but many failed to save their poultry and farm animals. Out of more than 5,000 ducks, for example, only about 1,000 were saved and many rice crops ready to be harvested in a few weeks turned into a muddy waste, he said.

"Our rice farms looked like it was ran over by a giant flat iron," Mr Velarde said. "All the rice stalks were flattened in one direction."

Hundreds of soldiers, police and volunteers have converged on Nueva Ecija, a landlocked, rice-growing province in the heart of Luzon island, to help villagers whose homes had been flooded, said Mr Lontoc.

Koppu's winds knocked down trees and electric posts, forced the suspension of dozens of flights and sea voyages, and the cancellation of classes in schools.

At least 11 people died, mostly due to drownings, landslides and fallen trees. One man was buried by a landslide while checking his farm on Sunday in the mountain town of Bakun in Benguet province. Two men drowned in Nueva Ecija, while a 14-year-old boy was killed when a huge branch of a tree fell on his family's shanty in suburban Quezon city in metropolitan Manila.

Seven people died when a passenger motorboat capsized in bad weather in the central Philippines, but the government's disaster-response agency has not included the deaths in the typhoon toll because the central region was not directly affected by the storm.

President Benigno Aquino III and disaster-response agencies had warned that Koppu's rain and winds may potentially bring more damage with its slow speed. But government forecasters said that there was less heavy rain than expected initially in some areas, including in Manila, but that fierce winds lashed many regions.

Koppu, Japanese for "cup," is the 12th storm this year to hit the Philippines, which averages 20 storms and typhoons each year.

In 2013, Typhoon Haiyan devastated entire towns in the central Philippines and left more than 7,300 people dead or missing.

Press Association

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