Typhoon Mangkhut lashed the north- ern Philippines with powerful winds and heavy rain that set off landslides and destroyed homes yesterday, leaving at least 12 people dead and six missing, as southern China braced for the storm.
The most powerful typhoon to hit the disaster-prone Philippines this year slammed ashore before dawn in Cagayan province on Luzon island, a breadbasket of flood-prone rice plains and mountain provinces with a history of deadly landslides.
China and the Philippines agreed to postpone a visit by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi due to start today due to the onslaught, which caused nearly 150 flights, a third of them international, to be cancelled and halted sea travel.
At least three people died and six were missing in the mountain city of Baguio after ferocious winds and rain destroyed several houses and set off landslides, which also blocked roads to the popular vacation destination, said the city’s mayor, Mauricio Domogan.
Authorities were verifying the drownings of three people, including two children. They were also investigating what happened to about 70 men who reportedly returned to their coastal village in Cagayan to check on their homes as the typhoon drew closer on Friday.
Mangkhut’s sustained winds weakened to 170km per hour with gusts of up to 260km/* after it sliced north-westwards across Luzon then blew out to the South China Sea, aiming at southern China and Hong Kong, where residents braced for the worst.
With the weather easing, officials warned there was lingering danger.
“It’s still a life and death situation,” Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said, citing past drownings in swollen rivers after storms had passed.
Storm warnings remained high in 10 northern provinces, including Cagayan, which could still be lashed. Thousands of people in the typhoon’s path have been evacuated.
The Tuguegarao airport terminal was badly damaged, Lorenzana said.
The typhoon struck at the start of the rice and corn harvesting season in Cagayan, a major agricultural producer, prompting farmers to scramble to save what they could of their crops.
More than 5 million people were at risk from the storm.
In Hong Kong, Security Minister John Lee Ka-chiu urged residents to prepare for the worst as the storm barrelled towards the Chinese city.
In nearby Fujian province in China, 51000 people were evacuated from fishing boats and around 11000 vessels returned to port yesterday.
China’s National Meteorological Centre issued an alert saying Mangkhut would make landfall somewhere on the coast in Guangdong province this afternoon or tonight.
Mangkhut, the Thai word for mangosteen fruit, is the 15th storm this year to batter the Philippines, which is hit by about 20 a year.