Super typhoon cuts power, unleashes landslides

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MANILA – The year’s most powerful typhoon slammed into the Philippines’ northernmost islands yesterday, cutting communication and power lines, triggering landslides and inundating rice fields, officials said.

Packing winds of 185 kilometers per hour (kph) near the center and gusts of up to 220 kph, Typhoon “Odette” (International name: “Usagi”)  weakened after hitting the Batanes island group, and is moving slowly west-northwest at 19 kph towards southern China, the weather bureau said.

“Odette,” which has been labeled a super typhoon, made landfall on Itbayat, the Philippine island closest to Taiwan, toppling communication and power lines, uprooting trees, causing landslides and flooding rice and garlic farms.

“It’s rare that we suffer casualties as a result of typhoons,” Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, a former congressman for Batanes, said, saying the province had not experienced a powerful typhoon in 25 years.

A flash flood occurred and trees were uprooted from the mountain and swept by roiling waters to the town.

Many houses lost their roofs or were destroyed. Damage to crops is heavy and landslides were reported all around.

Sea and air travel have been suspended since Friday, with fishermen urged to bring their boats in due to strong winds and giant waves.

Emergency workers were sent to the rescue of affected households in the province of nearly 16,000 people.

About 20 typhoons hit the Philippines each year, on average. In 2011, Typhoon “Washi” killed 1,200 people, destroyed more than 10,000 homes and displaced 200,000 people.

“Bopha,” the strongest storm to hit in 2012, flattened three coastal towns on the southern island of Mindanao, killing 1,100 people and destroying crops, property and infrastructure worth more than $1 billion.

Philippine Airlines (PAL) Express and Cebu Pacific Air were forced to cancel their flights to the select destinations in Northern Luzon as “Odette” continued to bring bad weather in parts of the country.

PAL Express flight 2P-918 Manila to Laoag was called off and so was its return flight 2P-919 Laoag to Manila.

Cebu Pacific Air cancelled flight 5J-504 Manila to Tuguegarao with scheduled departure at 11:25 a.m. and its turnaround flight 5J-505 Tuguegarao-Manila which was supposed to arrive at 1:55 p.m.

Earlier, PAL cancelled its flights Manila-Taipei-Manila and Manila-Laoag-Manila for the same reason. (Reuters, PNA)