Typhoon lashes Philippines, 1 dead, thousands flee

September 26, 2011 - 10:20 PM
Philippines Asia Typhoon

A rescue boat cruises past a newly unveiled giant Marikitna statue, the symbolic marker of Marikina city, east of Manila, Philippines during ceremony to commemorate the wrath of typhoon Ketsana (local name Ondoy) which caused the worst flooding in decades of metropolitan Manila and killed more than 500 people exactly two years ago Monday Sept. 26, 2011. Also on Monday, the Philippines is bracing for a new typhoon Nesat, with winds of up to 133 miles (215 kilometers) per hour, which is forecast to make a landfall in northeastern part of the country Tuesday. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — A powerful typhoon slammed the northern Philippines Tuesday, unleashing floods, cutting power and halting work in the capital, Manila, where residents waded in waist-deep waters and strong winds toppled trees.

Authorities ordered more than 100,000 people to shelter from rains and wind gusts of up to 106 miles (170 kilometers) per hour. At least one person — a baby — drowned and four fishermen were reported missing.

Typhoon Nesat made landfall before dawn over eastern mountainous Isabela and Aurora provinces which face the Pacific Ocean, packing sustained winds of 87 mph (140 kph), the government weather bureau said.

With its immense 400-mile (650-kilometer) cloud band, the typhoon threatened to foul weather across the entire main Luzon Island as it moves across the Philippines toward the South China Sea late Wednesday or early Thursday and then heads toward southern China.

Heavy downpours and winds prompted the closure of government offices, schools and universities in the capital, while scores of domestic flights were canceled and inter-island ferries grounded, stranding thousands. The Philippine Stock Exchange and U.S. Embassy were also closed Tuesday.

A year-old baby drowned in the central island province of Cataduanes after falling into a river, the government disaster agency reported. Four fishermen were missing while more than 50 others were rescued along eastern shores after their boats overturned in choppy seas. Forecasters warned of 12-foot-high (4-meter-high) waves.

A tornado in Isabela's Maconancon town ripped off the roofs of at least five houses, injuring two people, police said.

Power was cut in many parts of Luzon, including in Manila, where hospitals, hotels and emergency services used generators. Tree branches and torn tarpaulins littered the flooded streets. Traffic was light as most people stayed indoors.

In downtown Manila, near the historic old city, residents waded in waist-deep floodwaters as waves washed over the seawall along Manila Bay. Sidewalks and entrances to buildings were swamped and vehicles struggled to navigate the narrow streets.

Around the central Robinsons shopping mall, fierce winds toppled tables and tree branches, sending people for cover. Visibility was poor as the rain obscured the view.

In other parts of Manila, emergency workers prepared to evacuate river areas that are notorious for flooding.

About 112,000 people were ordered to leave their homes in five towns prone to flash floods and landslides in central Albay province. By Monday, more than 50,000 had moved to government-run evacuation centers and relatives' homes, officials said.

"We can't manage typhoons, but we can manage their effects," Albay Gov. Joey Salceda said.

Authorities were monitoring farming communities at the base of Mayon volcano in Albay, about 212 miles (340 kilometers) southeast of Manila.

Tons of ash have been deposited on Mayon's slopes by past eruptions, and mudslides caused by a typhoon in 2006 buried entire villages, leaving about 1,600 people dead and missing.

The typhoon bore down on the Philippines exactly two years after nearly 500 people died in the worst flooding in decades in Manila, a city of 12 million, when a tropical storm hit.

Residents commemorated the anniversary by offering prayers and planting trees Monday.

Nesat is the 16th cyclone to lash the Philippines this year. The geography of the archipelago makes it a welcome mat for about 20 storms and typhoons forming in the Pacific each year.

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Associated Press writer Jim Gomez contributed to this report.