Typhoon leaves 13 missing, displaces thousands in the Philippines

MANILA, PHILIPPINES (AP) — A fast-moving typhoon blew away from the Philippines yesterday after leaving at least 13 people missing, forcing thousands of villagers to flee to safety and flooding rural villages, disaster-response officials said.

The 13 people missing from Typhoon Molave included a dozen fishermen who ventured out to sea over the weekend despite a no-sail restriction due to very rough seas. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

The typhoon was blowing west towards the South China Sea with sustained winds of 125km/h and gusts of up to 150km/h. It roared overnight through island provinces south of the capital, Manila, which was lashed by strong winds but escaped major damage.

At least 25,000 villagers were displaced, with some 20,000 taking shelter in schools and government buildings that were turned into evacuation centres, the Office of Civil Defence said, but officials added that some returned home in regions where the weather cleared.

“Villagers are now asking to be rescued because of the sudden wind which blew away roofs,” Oriental Mindoro province Governor Humerlito Dolor told DZMM radio.

Dolor said pounding rains overnight swamped farming villages in his province then fierce winds toppled trees and power posts yesterday, knocking out power.

Motorists with an umbrella negotiate a flooded road due to Tyophoon Molave in Pampanga province, northern Philippines. PHOTO: AP

Authorities were clearing roads of fallen trees and debris in some towns after the typhoon passed, he said.

In the eastern province of Catanduanes, 12 fishermen were reported missing after they failed to return home from a weekend fishing expedition, officials said. A yacht sank off Batangas province, south of Manila, and the coast guard said it managed to rescue seven crewmen but was still searching for another crewmember.

A passenger and cargo vessel also ran aground on Bonito island off Batangas as the region was pounded by fierce wind and rain yesterday. The coast guard said its personnel were on the way to the island to pick up five crewmembers and tow the vessel back to coast.

Over 1,800 cargo truck drivers, workers and passengers were stranded in ports after the coast guard barred ships and ferry boats from venturing into rough seas, officials said. Some of the ports were later re-opened as the weather cleared.

About 20 typhoons and storms annually batter the Philippines, and the Southeast Asian archipelago is seismically active, with earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, making it one of the world’s most disaster-prone countries.