Four dead, thousands displaced as Typhoon Koppu batters Philippines


Manila (dpa) – Typhoon Koppu triggered flash floods and landslides in the northern Philippines Sunday, killing at least four people and forcing thousands of people to flee their homes, officials said.

Two people drowned in the province of Nueva Ecija, according to Governor Aurelio Umali, while one person was electrocuted in Tarlac province and a 14-year-old boy was hit by a falling tree in Manila, disaster relief officials said.

Koppu weakened slightly after it made landfall over Casiguran town in Aurora province, 215 kilometres north of Manila, the weather bureau said.

The typhoon was packing maximum winds of 150 kilometres per hour (kph) with gusts of up to 185 kph, and was moving west-northwest, at 5 kph, it added.

The bureau raised storm signal warnings over 26 provinces and Manila.

“There is still danger so we should not put our guard down,” chief weather forecaster Esperanza Cayanan said. “We should still be careful. Coastal areas are still dangerous and it is not safe for small boats to go out to sea.”

More than 16,000 people were evacuated from their homes due to floods and warnings of storm surges up to 3 metres, the national disaster relief agency said.

Dozens of domestic flights were cancelled, and sea travel was suspended due to choppy seas, stranding more than 5,500 passengers, it added. School classes in most of the affected areas, including Manila, were suspended on Monday.

The entire province of Aurora and some parts of other northern provinces were without electricity, and communication lines were also poor, said Alexander Pama, head of the agency.

“Some rivers have overflowed and several roads and bridges are now impassable due to landslides and floods,” he said.

Television footage showed chest-deep, brown water submerging some towns of Aurora. Emergency workers held on to ropes attached to vehicles as they rescued residents trapped in their homes.

In Baler town, 31 patients were evacuated from a hospital after its roofs were blown away by Koppu’s winds.

The Philippines is hit by an average of 20 cyclones every year, causing floods, landslides and other accidents.

The strongest typhoon – Haiyan – hit the country in November 2013, killing more than 6,300 people. Haiyan also displaced more than 4 million people after it wiped out entire villages in the central Philippines.