The strongest typhoon globally this year has battered the northern Philippines, leaving at least two people dead and 44 missing.
Philippines battered by 210kph Typhoon Utor
MANILA // A powerful typhoon battered the northern Philippines yesterday, toppling power lines and dumping heavy rain across cities and food-growing areas. The storm left at least two people dead and 44 missing.
Typhoon Utor, described as the strongest globally so far this year, slammed ashore in mountainous eastern Aurora province with sustained winds of 175kph and gusts of up to 210kph.
"It looks like the death and damage toll is going to go up, with wind like this you can expect a lot of damage," said Francis Rodriguez, a senior officer with the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.
Mr Rodriguez said authorities would likely not receive reports from isolated villages that were in Utor's direct path until today.
Television footage showed a woman swept away by a raging river in neighbouring Isabela province. The woman waved her hands for help as she struggled to hang on to debris while being buffeted by huge waves in the muddy waters.
"She has not been found, so she is missing," said Norma Talosig, a regional civil defence director. She said the woman lived alone in a low-lying area and had refused to be evacuated.
Ms Talosig said that in northern Nueva Vizcaya province, a 53-year-old farmer drowned while trying to rescue his water buffalo from a swift-moving flood. The animal survived.
In mountainous Benguet province, a 22-year-old man died on the way to hospital after he was pulled from a landslide that hit a canal he was clearing.
The typhoon triggered waves of up to 2.5 metres and left scores of fishermen missing.
In northern Pangasinan province, 25 fishermen on three boats failed to return home, said the provincial police spokesman, senior inspector Ryan Manongdo.
Eighteen other fishermen from the eastern provinces of Catanduanes and Camarines Norte also were unaccounted for.
Authorities were hoping they took shelter in coves and nearby islands, said the office of civil defence regional director, Bernardo Alejandro.
"I hope they're just waiting for the typhoon to pass and will show up as soon as the weather clears," he said.
A higher number of missing had been reported earlier, but some of the fishermen have returned home.
In Manila, about 200 kilometres to the south of the storm's path, there was heavy rain overnight and throughout Monday but no major flooding.
Schools across the capital were closed yesterday in an automatic response to a government storm alert.
Such precautionary measures have become standard after the death tolls of storms in recent years have been exacerbated by poor preparations.
More than 1,000 were killed when Typhoon Bopha hit the Philippines in December, the deadliest storm in the world in 2012.
As of late yesterday, Utor picked up speed as it continued to move away from the country.
The government forecaster, Joey Figuracion, said the typhoon was 230 kilometres north-west of the coast of the northern Ilocos Sur province and was moving to the north-west.
The forecast is for it to reach southern China tomorrow.
The office of civil defence administrator, Eduardo del Rosario, said that almost 2,000 people from three regions had to be evacuated to shelters, with about 670 houses damaged.
Utor, the word used in the language of the Marshall Islands for a squall line, was the 12th of about 20 storms and typhoons that are expected to lash the Philippines this year.
* Associated Press, with additional reporting by Agence France-Presse