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Typhoon Mitag slams into Philippines: officials

by Staff Writers
Manila (AFP) Nov 26, 2007
Rescuers went on full alert Monday after Typhoon Mitag slammed into the Philippines, killing at least eight people and forcing hundreds of thousands from their homes in one of the country's largest evacuation operations in recent history.

Mitag hit the northern province of Isabela on the main island of Luzon late Sunday, bringing strong winds and heavy rain, knocking out power lines and causing widespread flooding, the civil defence office said Monday.

The Philippines is expected to have bad weather for the entire week, with tropical storm Hagibis expected to re-enter the country to merge with a third storm that is bearing down on the eastern seaboard, the agency said.

Hagibis blew into the South China Sea on November 20 after leaving 13 dead, but latest forecasts show it may hit the western Philippine island province of Palawan by late Monday or early Tuesday.

Mitag uprooted large trees, blew away huts, and caused heavy damage to agriculture. It also caused landslides and flooding, although there were no immediate reports of huge casualties.

Six people drowned and one was electrocuted by a fallen power line in the provinces of Camarines Sur and Camarines Norte, southeast of Manila, where the initial effects of the typhoon were felt. An eighth victim was reported killed in a typhoon-related accident.

Two others were missing in Apayao province after a swollen river washed away a house, rescuers said.

As of noon Monday, Mitag's strength weakened to gusts of 150 kilometers (93 miles) per hour as it moved northeast over Luzon.

Nearly 300,000 people were evacuated from six provinces before the typhoon hit in one of the largest such operations, although many had returned home by Monday morning.

In the coastal town of Palanan, where Mitag made landfall late Sunday, some 15,000 people were evacuated to safer ground. Power interruptions in several provinces were also reported.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque placed all government hospitals and staff on a 24-hour standby with the death toll likely to rise.

Flash floods hit three towns in northern Cagayan province, where a military contingent was dispatched early Monday, civil defence spokesman Anthony Golez said.

He said a landslide cut a major highway between Cagayan and Ilocos Norte, stranding several vehicles.

The state weather bureau forecast strong rains and winds over these areas for the rest of the day. It also advised those living near coastal areas and mountains to remain in evacuation sites.

"We will continue to have stormy weather for the whole week, with Mitag expected to merge with two other disturbances," said chief weather forecaster Nathaniel Cruz.

The agriculture department said damage to crops would likely top 73 million pesos (1.7 million dollars), but still not enough to derail overall output for the year.

It said that it was prepared to avert any possible shortage of rice, the country's staple food, because the National Food Authority has a buffer stock of 600,000 bags stored in various parts of the country.


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