Manila: A powerful typhoon left at least 19 people dead, knocked down power and communications in entire provinces and wrought widespread destruction mostly in the central Philippines, officials said Saturday. A governor said her island has been “leveled to the ground.”
Typhoon Rai blew away Friday night into the South China Sea after rampaging through southern and central island provinces, where more than 300,000 people in its path were evacuated to safety in advance in a pre-emptive move officials say may have saved a lot of lives.
At its strongest, Rai packed sustained winds of 195 kilometers (121 miles) per hour and gusts of up to 270 kph (168 mph), one of the most powerful in recent years to hit the disaster-prone Southeast Asian archipelago, which lies between the Pacific Ocean and the South China Sea. The typhoon slammed into the country’s southeastern coast Thursday but the extent of casualties and destruction remained unclear two days after with entire provinces still without power and cellphone connection.
The government’s main disaster-response agency said at least 31 people were reported killed, many after being hit by falling trees, but it added it was validating most of the deaths. At least three were injured and one was missing.
Officials on Dinagat Islands, one of the first provinces to be lashed by the typhoon’s ferocious winds, remained cut off Saturday due to downed power and communication lines. But its governor, Arlene Bag-ao, managed to post a statement on the province’s website to say that the island of about 180,000 “has been leveled to the ground.” (AP)