An aerial photo shows houses destroyed at the height of super Typhoon Mangkhut in Tuguegarao City, in Cagayan province, on September 16, 2018. Photo: AFP / Ted Aljibe
An aerial photo shows houses destroyed at the height of super Typhoon Mangkhut in Tuguegarao City, in Cagayan province, on September 16, 2018. Photo: AFP / Ted Aljibe

Super Typhoon Mangkhut slammed into the Philippines on Saturday, killing at least 25 people and swamping large sections of agricultural land before continuing its destructive path toward Hong Kong and southern China.

The monster storm, called the strongest typhoon this year, shattered trees, tore off roofs and knocked out power when it made landfall on Luzon, the main island in the country’s north.

Officials said early on Sunday that at least 25 people had been killed and it was possible the toll could rise because communications and power lines were knocked out throughout much of the area in the huge storm’s path. About five million people lived in that region, they said.

Most of the deaths were reportedly caused by landslides. Some 20 deaths in the Cordillera region on Luzon and four in nearby Nueva Vizcaya province were caused by landslides, Reuters said, quoting a presidential adviser.

Nearly every building in Tuguegarao, the capital of Cagayan province, suffered damage, a government spokeswoman said. Officials were busy assessing the human and material cost on Sunday.

In the northern town of Baggao, the storm collapsed houses, tore off roofs and brought down power lines. Some roads were cut off by landslides and many remained submerged, Agence France-Presse reported.

Farms across Luzon, which produces a large portion of the nation’s rice and corn, were sitting under muddy floodwaters, their crops ruined just a month before harvest.

“We’re already poor and then this [storm] happened to us. We have lost hope,” 40-year-old Mary Anne Baril, whose corn and rice crops were spoiled in the storm, told AFP. “We have no other means to survive,” she said through tears.

More than 105,000 people fled their homes in the largely rural region.

20 typhoons a year

An average of 20 typhoons and storms lash the Philippines each year, killing hundreds of people and leaving millions in near-perpetual poverty.

Aside from the those killed in landslides, one death resulted from a treefall in Ilocos Sur province, while a girl drowned and a security guard was crushed by a falling wall.

The country’s deadliest storm on record is Super Typhoon Haiyan, which left more than 7,350 people dead or missing across the central Philippines in November 2013.

In addition to the deaths in the Philippines, a woman was swept out to sea in Taiwan. But the island escaped the brunt of the storm, with strong winds and heavy rain mainly striking southern regions, the Central News Agency reported, quoting the Central Weather Bureau.

In Manila, Social Welfare Secretary Virginia Orogo said that thousands of people took refuge in emergency shelters. “We believe there has been a lot of damage.”

Amid violent winds and torrential rain, authorities had warned of potentially heavy destruction, as the typhoon’s gusts strengthened to 330 kilometers per hour, the state weather bureau reported.

“In terms of strength, Typhoon Mangkhut is the strongest tropical cyclone of the year,” the World Meteorological Organization said.

On Friday, storm warnings were raised in 25 provinces across Luzon, restricting sea and air travel. “As many as 824,000 of the 4.3 million people living in the path of Mangkhut are in danger and may have to be evacuated,” Ricardo Jalad, executive director of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council in Quezon City, had told a media conference.

Stronger than a Category 5 Atlantic hurricane, Mangkhut’s typhoon-force winds at one point stretched for 270km, which is the distance between Paris in France to Brussels in Belgium.

But Mangkhut weakened after blasting across Luzon. On Sunday it was packing sustained winds of 175 kilometers per hour (110 miles per hour) as it hurtled toward China’s heavily populated southern coast.

Emergency services were also being mobilized in Macau with the local government cautioning that Mangkhut could be more lethal than Typhoon Hato, which killed 10 people in Hong Kong and Macau and injured a further 244, as well as causing massive flooding.

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