Philippines typhoon turns deadly and cuts off power

Philippines Typhoon Conson hit the island of Luzon, killing at least 11 with more than 50 people missing.

AP Photo/Aaron Favila
Residents have their motorcycle pass through underneath one of the beams of a collapsed crane along the South Luzon Expressway in suburban Paranaque, south of Manila, Philippines on Wednesday July 14, 2010. The Philippines typhoon – the first of the year – barreled toward the country's east coast late Tuesday, prompting flight and ferry cancellations, school closures and warnings of floods and landslides.

Parts of Manila may be without power until Friday after Typhoon Conson hit the Philippines' main island of Luzon, killing at least 11 people with more than 50 missing, and moved towards southern China.

It would take two to three days to repair at least five major transmission lines after cables and wires were cut on Tuesday night by falling trees, posts and strong winds, said Guillermo Redoblado, spokesman for the national grid corporation.

"The 2-3 days estimate is very conservative because we have not completed our assessment," Redoblado told ANC television, adding about 850 megawatts of capacity would be restored in the next 24-48 hours.

"By the end of the day, we can say half of the requirements of Meralco will be provided for."

Meralco (MER.PS), the main power distributor in the capital and six nearby provinces, provides electricity to 4.7 million households.

Provinces neighbouring the capital were hit harder by Conson, which weakened to a tropical storm after reaching Luzon but sill carried winds of 95 kph (59 mph) and gusts of up to 120 kph.

In the central province of Camarines Norte, four people drowned at sea and two were killed by falling trees, and 40 more people were missing, Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo said.

Eight of 19 fisherman missing since Tuesday night were found, but 11 remained unaccounted for, the army said.

Five people were killed and six were missing in Batangas and Cavite provinces, south of Manila, local officials said.

Conson was expected to be out of Philippine territorial waters by Thursday and reach southern China in 24-48 hours, the weather bureau said. it was expected to regain strength as it moved over the South China Sea.


Across Manila and surrounding provinces, the storm felled trees and covered roads in debris and stopped train services. Hundreds of families moved to temporary shelter areas due to flash floods.

The Agriculture Department said it was too early to make an assessment of any damage to rice and coconut crops in the provinces that were in Conson's path. Philippine financial markets opened as normal on Wednesday, showing little reaction to the storm as buildings in the central business district were powered by back-up generators. The stock market .PSI rose 1.1 percent to its highest close in 2-½ years, lifted by broad gains in Asian stocks.

President Benigno Aquino III scolded the weather bureau for inaccurate forecasts at a meeting of National Disaster Coordinating Council at the main army base in Manila. "That information is sorely lacking and we have had this problem for quite a long time," Aquino told the weather bureau. "You do what you are supposed to do and this is not acceptable. I hope this is the last time that we are brought to areas different from where we should be."

Dozens of domestic and international flights were either suspended or diverted from Manila's main airport. Schools were closed but some government offices suspended operations as the country began cleaning up the debris left by Conson, known locally as Basyang.

Typhoons and tropical storms regularly hit the Philippines, China, Taiwan and Japan in the second half of the year, gathering strength from the warm waters of the Pacific Ocean or South China Sea before normally weakening over land.

Last year, Typhoon Ketsana, known in the Philippines as Ondoy, dumped record rain that submerged 80 percent of the capital region and nearby areas, killing 277 people, leaving tens of thousands homeless and causing more than $100 million of damage to crops, infrastructure and property.


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