Slow-moving Typhoon Koppu has weakened after blowing ashore with fierce winds in the north-eastern Philippines, leaving at least two people dead, displacing 16,000 villagers and knocking out power in entire provinces.
Army troops and police were deployed to rescue residents trapped in flooded villages in the hard-hit provinces of Aurora, where the typhoon made landfall early on Sunday, and Nueva Ecija, a nearby rice-growing province where floodwaters swamped rice farmlands at harvest time.
After slamming into Aurora’s Casiguran town after midnight on Saturday, the typhoon weakened and slowed down, hemmed in by the Sierra Madre mountain range and a high pressure area in the country’s north and another typhoon far out in the Pacific in the east, government forecaster Gladys Saludes said.
Howling winds knocked down trees and electric posts, leaving nine entire provinces without power, while floods and small landslides made 25 roads and bridges impassable. Authorities suspended dozens of flights and sea voyages due to the stormy weather, and many cities cancelled classes on Monday.
Late Sunday night, the typhoon was blowing over the northern mountainous province of Ifugao and was continuing to weaken. It had sustained winds of 130 kilometres (80 miles) per hour and gusts of up to 160 kph (100 mph) and was blowing northwards at just 5 kph (3 mph), according to the government’s weather agency. It is expected to weaken to a tropical storm by late Monday and exit the main northern island of Luzon on Wednesday.
While weather conditions had begun to improve in some towns, and villagers had started to clear roads of fallen trees and debris, Koppu still packed a ferocity that could set off landslides and flash floods, officials said.
“We’re asking our countrymen not to become complacent,” said Alexander Pama, who heads the government’s disaster-response agency, citing how rainwater could cascade down mountainsides after Koppu passed and flood villages.
That happened in low-lying villages in six towns in Nueva Ecija, near Aurora, where some residents were trapped on rooftops by floodwaters, said Nigel Lontoc, from the Office of Civil Defence.
A teenager was pinned to death on Sunday by a fallen tree, which also injured four people and damaged three houses in suburban Quezon city in the Manila metropolis. In Subic town, north-west of Manila, a concrete wall collapsed and killed a 62-year-old woman and injured her husband, Mr Lontoc said.
Three fishermen who had gone missing at sea were rescued off northern Bataan province, and three other missing people were found in an evacuation camp in Aurora’s Baler town, he said.
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 Saludes, the government forecaster, 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 to hit the Philippines this year. An average of 20 storms and typhoons each year batter the archipelago, one of the world’s most disaster-prone countries.
In 2013, Typhoon Haiyan, one of the most ferocious storms on record to hit land, barrelled through the central Philippines, levelling entire towns and leaving more than 7,300 people dead or missing.