Philippines: 20 dead, thousands of homes damaged in typhoon

By JIM GOMEZ 03 November 2020, 12:00AM

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — At least 20 people were killed as Typhoon Goni lashed the Philippines over the weekend, and about 13,000 shanties and houses were damaged or swept away in the eastern island province that was first hit by the ferocious storm, officials said Monday.

Goni blasted into Catanduanes province at dawn Sunday as a super typhoon with sustained winds of 225 kilometers (140 miles) per hour and gusts of 280 kph (174 mph). But it weakened considerably after making landfall and shifted direction to spare the capital, Manila, before blowing out into the South China Sea.

The Office of Civil Defense said at least 20 people were killed in Catanduanes and nearby Albay province.

Catanduanes, an island province of more than 260,000 people that is often lashed by Pacific storms, was isolated after losing power and communications due to Goni and another typhoon that had hit a week earlier. But officials there managed to connect to the outside world on Monday after disaster-response authorities flew to the devastated island with satellite phones.

Catanduanes Gov. Joseph Cua and other officials said the typhoon whipped up 5-meter (16-foot) storm surges and damaged or swept away about 13,000 houses. Many residents fled to safety from their homes as the typhoon approached.

More than 66,000 other houses and huts were damaged elsewhere in the region, officials said.

Cua described the onslaught as “severe” and reported that some coastal areas were swamped by frightening storm surges.

About 80% of the electricity posts on the island were toppled and roads linking the province’s 11 towns remained impassable, Cua said.

An army general on the island appealed for more troops to help distribute food packs and water to residents. He added that the army camp was destroyed by the typhoon and soldiers have camped out at the airport, which remained open.

An air force cargo plane was to deliver food packs, drinking water, blankets and other relief goods to the province.

The typhoon also devastated the nearby province of Albay, where heavy rains washed down boulders and mudflows from Mayon Volcano, engulfing about 150 houses in a single community in the town of Guinobatan, Albay Gov. Al Francis Bichara said.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte led an aerial inspection of the typhoon-hit region and briefly visited Guinobatan on his way to Manila on Monday from his southern hometown, officials said. The 75-year-old leader has been criticized for his absences from public view during the coronavirus pandemic and recent storms, but aides say he's working even when away from the public.

Goni, one of the most powerful typhoons in the world this year, evoked memories of Typhoon Haiyan, which left more than 7,300 people dead or missing, flattened entire villages, swept ships inland and displaced more than 5 million in the central Philippines in November 2013.

The Philippines is hit by about 20 typhoons and storms each year. It’s also located on the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” where earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are common, making it one of the world’s most disaster-prone countries.

By JIM GOMEZ 03 November 2020, 12:00AM

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