16 Sep 2018

Death toll climbing in the Philippines in the wake of Mangkhut

5:25 pm on 16 September 2018

The Philippines is counting the human and economic cost of Typhoon Mangkhut, which ripped through its main island with deadly consequences on Saturday.

Strong waves caused by super Typhoon Mangkhut are seen in Manila.

Massive waves caused by super Typhoon Mangkhut in Manila. Photo: AFP

At least 25 people are known to have died but blocked roads and downed communications lines mean the true impact on rural areas is not yet clear.

Extensive crop damage is feared in the agricultural province of Cagayan.

The storm, which packs a 900km rain band and strong winds, is heading towards southern China.

In the Philippines, it made landfall at Baggao, in the north-east of the main island of Luzon, at about 1.40am local time on Saturday (5.40pm GMT on Friday) and left some 20 hours later.

Originally a super typhoon billed as the strongest storm of 2018, it lost some of its strength on landfall.

Five million people were in its path and more than 100,000 sheltered in temporary centres.

What is known about the victims?

Francis Tolentino, a presidential spokesman and disaster response coordinator, said almost all the deaths had been caused by landslides in the Cordillera and Nueva Vizcaya regions.

He added that reports from other areas were still coming in.

One person was killed by a falling tree in the province of Ilocos Sur, Mr Tolentino said.

How bad is the damage?

Almost all buildings in the city of Tuguegarao, Cagayan's provincial capital, sustained damage, a government official said.

Francis Tolentino, political adviser to President Duterte, told the BBC there was also extensive crop damage in the agricultural heartland state.

He estimated only a fifth of produce there had been harvested in advance - threatening staples like rice and corn.

The Philippine Red Cross chairman, Richard Gordon, told the BBC on Saturday the country was not yet safe from danger.

"After the winds come the rains, comes the water, so the next problems that we have to face are floods and access to these areas again," he said.

The Philippines is routinely hit during the typhoon season but the strength of Manghukt evoked memories of the deadliest storm on national record - Super Typhoon Haiyan - which killed more than 7000 in 2013.

However, preparation and evacuation procedures have been improved since then - warnings were issued, travel was restricted, schools shut and the army was put on standby in advance.

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Mothers and children wait to get food at the school turned evacuation centre in Pancian village in Pagudpud town of Ilocos Norte Province. Photo: Supplied / Oxfam

How is China preparing?

Mangkhut is still strong as it heads west toward southern China, with current sustained wind speeds of 145km/h.

Fears it will re-strengthen into a super typhoon have receded.

It is forecast to pass Hong Kong - but not hit it directly - at noon local time.

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A TV news crew braves super Typhoon Mangkhut in a coastal residential area as Mangkhut hits Hong Kong. Photo: AFP

Authorities there have upgraded their warning level to a signal ten - the highest level - meaning residents should stay indoors to avoid any flying debris.

BBC News' Robin Brant said that the city is now "pretty much shut down", although some cars remain on the roads.

Most shops and public services are shut, and more than 800 flights have been cancelled at Hong Kong International Airport - affecting more than 100,000 passengers.

Antoine Li, a government official at an emergency centre in the fishing village of Tai O on Hong Kong's Lantau Island, said residents must not underestimate the storm.

"This typhoon will be very dangerous as it will arrive when everyone is sleeping and there is no way to leave so we have called on residents to leave the village before it gets dark," he told Reuters news agency.

Mangkut is expected to weaken into a tropical depression by Tuesday.