Nine dead, 10 missing after typhoon hits Philippines

The first typhoon to lash the Philippines this year killed at least nine people and left 10 others missing after flooding streets in the capital and toppling power lines.

Typhoon Conson slammed into north-east Quezon province with winds of 75mph (120 kph) late yesterday and weakened into a tropical storm as it crossed rice-growing Luzon Island.

The storm blew out of Manila before dawn today, leaving downed branches, trees and scattered debris.

Military spokesman Major Harold Cabunoc said local authorities and civilian volunteers rescued nine of 19 fishermen who had disappeared when big waves churned out by the typhoon overturned their boats off the island province of Catanduanes.

Workers rushed to fix damaged power lines which left more than half of the main northern island without electricity.

The National Grid Corporation of the Philippines said it would take two to three days to return to normal, with Manila getting only half its needs and hotels and shopping centres running their own generators.

Conson moved into the South China Sea and was projected to make another landfall on the Chinese mainland west of Macau later this week.

Among the fatalities were a woman and her daughter, who were hit by a falling tree in Cavite province’s Trece Martires city south of Manila, regional disaster operations officer Fred Bragas said.

Provincial spokesman Filomeno Maligaya told DZBB radio that another child drowned after falling into a raging river.

A 12-year-old girl and her four-year-old brother were also killed when a large mango tree crashed into their home as they were sleeping in nearby Batangas province, Mr Bragas said.

A 47-year-old woman was electrocuted by a power line which snapped at the height of the typhoon, he added.

In coastal Camarines Norte province, south-east of Manila, at least three people were killed, said Maj Cabunoc. He gave no details.

The national disaster council reported that some communities in Manila were flooded by knee-deep water. Up to 3,100 people were stranded in ports waiting for the weather to clear.

Despite preparations by disaster relief agencies to avoid the repetition of last year’s tragedy when nearly 1,000 people were killed in typhoon-triggered floods in and around Manila, newly elected President Benigno Aquino III condemned the weather bureau for failing to predict that the storm would hit the capital.

“I hope this is the last time we are all brought to areas different from where we should be,” he told officials during a meeting of the National Disaster Co-ordinating Council, noting that government agencies were relying on the weather bureau for their preparations.

Weather bureau chief Prisco Nilo explained that it takes forecasters six hours to update weather bulletins in making predictions. The weather bureau has complained of lack of funding and equipment.

The Manila International Airport Authority said 63 flights, including four international services, had been cancelled and nine diverted to the central Philippine international airport since late yesterday.

Classes were suspended in grade and high schools and most universities in Manila. Several government offices, including the Senate, also suspended work due to the power outage.

Thousands of commuters were stranded when the blackouts disrupted train services.

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