Typhoon hits southern Philippines, kills 25 people

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 19, 2011 3:53 AM

MANILA (Reuters) - Twenty-five people were killed and dozens unaccounted for in the Philippines as typhoon Washi battered a southern island, grounding some domestic flights and plunging wide areas into darkness, officials said Saturday.

Washi, packing center winds of 75 kph (47 mph) and gusts of up to 90 kph (56 mph), hit the resource-rich southern island of Mindanao, bringing heavy rain that caused flash floods in two main cities, disaster agency head Benito Ramos said.

The category 1 typhoon is moving west northwest at 30 kph (18 mph) and is expected to head out to the South China Sea by Sunday.

"Heavy rains brought by the typhoon caused landslides in mining area and flash floods in two southern cities due to swollen river systems," Ramos told reporters, saying 25 bodies had been recovered, most of them drowned.

One miner was also buried by landslide in Monkayo, he said, adding the death toll could rise as the water recedes.

Iligan City Mayor Lawrence Cruz said many people were caught by surprise when floodwaters rose one meter (three feet) high in less than an hour, forcing many people onto the roofs of their houses.

"Most of them were already sleeping when floodwaters entered their homes," he said. "This is the worst flooding our city had experienced in years."

Another disaster official, Ana Caneda, said they were still verifying reports that 50 people had drowned and dozens were missing in Cagayan del Oro City. A radio station reported up to 80 people died and 250 were missing in the two cities.

"We can't report how many people until we get their bodies and identify them properly," Caneda said, adding nearly 5,000 people were displaced. Some houses were also swept away.

Ramos said his agency could not estimate crop and property damage because emergency workers, including soldiers and police officers, were busy evacuating families and recovering casualties.

Six domestic flights of Cebu Pacific were cancelled due to the rain and near-zero visibility in the southern and central Philippines. Ferry services were also halted, stranding hundreds of people.

An average of 20 typhoons hit the Philippines every year, often causing death and destruction.

(Reporting By Manny Mogato; Editing by Robert Birsel)