Seven dead as Philippine typhoon nears

Seven people have been killed and tens of thousands have evacuated their homes as typhoon Mitag approaches the eastern Philippines, disaster relief agencies said Sunday.

Seven dead as Philippine typhoon nears
Six people drowned while one was electrocuted by a fallen power line in the provinces of Camarines Sur and Camarines Norte, southeast of Manila, where the initial effects of the typhoon are being felt, the regional disaster office reported.

The civil defence office in Manila said at least 298,000 people had evacuated their homes in six provinces to avoid flash floods, landslides or volcanic mudslides that could be triggered by the storm.

The military has also declared a unilateral suspension of operations against communist insurgents in the areas likely to be affected by the storm to allow soldiers to focus all their efforts on helping in relief and evacuation efforts, military spokesmen said.

However, this would not prevent the military from carrying out law-enforcement operations or from protecting their camps or the public from attacks "that may take place during the suspension of military operations," said spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Bartolome Bacarro.

President Gloria Arroyo had ordered a "pre-emptive evacuation" in vulnerable areas to avoid a repeat of the disaster last year when typhoon Durian struck the Bicol peninsula, killing about 1,200 people and leaving 200,000 homeless.

Mitag, which was initially heading towards Bicol, southeast of Manila, swerved northwards towards the provinces of Aurora and Isabela, northeast of the capital.

As of 11:00 am (0300 GMT) Sunday, Mitag was still 280 kilometres (173 miles) southeast of Aurora, moving northwest at 15 kilometres per hour, the government weather station said.

It is forecast to hit northern provinces late Sunday.

The storm had weakened, packing maximum sustained winds of 160 kilometres per hour with gusts of 195 kilometres per hour as of Sunday, compared with sustained winds of 175 kilometres and gusts of 210 kilometres per hour recorded earlier.

In the Bicol region, where thousands of people had earlier fled ahead of the storm, some were already leaving evacuation centres and returning home because the typhoon had changed course, said civil defence director Anthony Golez.

Golez said that Arroyo had called the governors of the provinces likely to be hit by the typhoon and they had reported to her that "everything is under control. They have all stockpiled (supplies) and prepared and evacuated communities that are in danger for flash floods and landslides."

He said Arroyo had ordered the national civil defence office to be ready in case any province asked for aid.

The highest level of a three-step storm alert remains in force over the northeastern provinces of Aurora, Isabela, Cagayan and Quirino, which will likely feel the full force of typhoon Mitag first.

Lower-level storm alerts have been raised over neighbouring provinces.


Güncelleme Tarihi: 25 Kasım 2007, 14:11