Typhoon Mangkhut kills dozens in the Philippines
Storm heading west into the South China Sea toward Hong Kong
At least 25 people have been killed in the Philippines in a trail of devastation left by Typhoon Mangkhut, mostly in landslides in mountainous areas, a presidential adviser said on Sunday.
Twenty deaths in the Cordillera region on the main island of Luzon and four in nearby Nueva Vizcaya province were caused by landslides. Another death resulted from a treefall in the province of Ilocos Sur, Francis Tolentino said by telephone.
The tally reflected the situation at 9 a.m. local time on Sunday, said Tolentino, the main disaster response co-ordinator and an adviser to President Rodrigo Duterte, adding that reports from other areas of northern Luzon, hit by the typhoon on Saturday, were still flowing in.
The Cordillera deaths were confirmed by Emmanuel Salamat, of the office of civil defense, who said police had reported at least 20 dead there.
Mangkhut entered the Philippines as a super typhoon in the early hours and sent winds and rains across the entire main island of Luzon, home to about half the country's 105 million people.
Known locally as Ompong, Typhoon Mangkhut at one point had maximum gusts of 305 km/h before it exited the land area before noon and moved toward southern China and Vietnam with reduced wind speeds of 106 km/h.
Philippine state weather agency PAGASA downgraded the domestic threat level, but warned the danger was far from over, with storm surges and heavy rains that could trigger floods and more landslides.
"We are asking the people to remain alert and continue taking precautions," said PAGASA meteorologist Rene Paciente.
Rapid response teams were on standby with the air force for search and rescue missions as authorities undertook damage assessments in areas in the path of the storm, which felled trees, electricity poles and tore off shop signs and sheet metal roofs hundreds of kilometres away.
Strongest storm this year
There was flooding in several provinces and parts of the capital Manila. Authorities were preparing to release water from several dams, fearing constant rains could push reservoirs to dangerously high levels.
Mangkhut had been a Category 5 storm for days since wreaking havoc in U.S. Pacific territories of Micronesia before edging toward the Philippines, where it is the 15th and strongest storm this year.
The typhoon's peak winds were stronger than those of Hurricane Florence, which has killed at least five people in the United States after it piled into the Carolinas, knocking down trees, gorging rivers and causing major power outages before it was downgraded to a tropical storm.
Some 105,000 people were staying in temporary shelters after mass evacuation of coastal areas of the Philippines following major storm surge warnings.
Authorities in some areas of northern Luzon turned off power as a precaution, and said some residents in high-risk areas chose to ride out the storm to protect homes from looters.
More than 1,000 houses were impacted in Cagayan province, where the storm first made landfall, with authorities in the town of Baggao saying they had lost contact with an emergency response team, said Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.
Cagayan province hit hard
Rogelio Sending, a government official in Cagayan, said there were provincewide power and communication outages and reports of uprooted trees blocking roads.
"This makes the clearing operations really difficult," he said by phone.
The Philippines is still haunted by the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan, which killed more than 6,300 people in central areas of the country in 2013, most due to huge storm surges.
But authorities say they were better prepared this time in terms of evacuating and informing high-risk communities.
Mangkhut's winds weakened as it churned toward the South China Sea, aiming at southern China and Hong Kong.
Cheng Cho-Ming, assistent director with Hong Kong's Forecasting and Warning Services agency, said Mangkhut will bring strong gales and downpours along with storm surges to the city.
With files from The Associated Press