28 Sep 2011

Deadly typhoon sweeps across Philippines

9:36 am on 28 September 2011

A powerful typhoon that struck the Philippines has left at least 16 people dead - several of them children - and caused flooding and blackouts.

The government said Typhoon Nesat was one of the largest storms the country had faced this year, with its rain and wind path twice as big as average.

Civil defence chief Benito Ramos said that at least 16 people had died and the toll likely to rise overnight on Tuesday as more reports from rescuers on the ground were expected to filter in.

Four of the dead were crushed by a collapsed structure in Manila and a baby fell into a raging river in an eastern province on Monday.

More than 100 other people were rescued, including fishermen whose boats capsized in rough seas after ignoring warnings not to set sail, Mr Ramos said.

The storm slammed into the main island of Luzon before dawn, bringing maximum sustained winds of up to 140 km/h and gusts of 170 km/h.

It later weakened while slicing through Luzon, but dumped heavy rains throughout the day across the whole island that is home to about 48 million people.

Parts of the capital of more than 12 million people endured waist-deep flooding, with some of the worst effects seen around the historic bayside area.

Huge waves crashed into Manila Bay's seawall, submerging the ground floor of Manila Hospital, which sits on the boulevard facing the bay, in knee-deep waters, forcing medical staff to relocate patients to the second floor, local media said.

The five-star Sofitel Philippine Plaza Hotel, located on the bay, was also evacuated, while the US embassy was partly submerged, according to rescue workers.

Nearly two million households suffered power outages in the capital and surrounding areas, according to the Manila Electric Company, and many people remained without electricity by nightfall.

Amid the chaos, all schools were suspended and government offices were closed, while dozens of domestic flights in and out of the capital were cancelled.

The Philippine Stock Exchange suspended trading, and Manila's main overhead railway system ground to a halt due to power failures.

A controlled release of water from the Angat Dam in Bulacan province just north of Manila on Tuesday flooded around 25 towns, a provincial governor said, though there were no reports of casualties.

Nesat was expected to blow into the South China Sea by Wednesday, although bad weather would likely persist for most of the week.

The Philippines is hit by about 20 major storms annually, many of them deadly.