At Least 14 Reported Dead as Typhoon Mirinae Lashes Philippines

November 2, 2009

Typhoon Mirinae has battered the Philippine capital and surrounding provinces, still reeling from recent flooding, killing at least 14 people [IJ Note — later reports have increased the death toll to 24] and sending residents of one town clambering onto rooftops to escape rising waters, officials said Sunday.

The typhoon was the fourth storm to lash the northern Philippines since late September and brought new hardship to areas still struggling in the wake of the previous disasters.

Nearly 95,000 people who fled during two prior storms were still living in temporary shelters when Mirinae struck Saturday, the national disaster agency said.

The storm headed out to sea and was swirling 279 miles (450 kilometers) southwest of Manila early Sunday but could still bring rains and thunderstorms to western Palawan province, forecasters said. The storm was over the South China Sea and appeared to be heading toward Vietnam, they said.

As Mirinae slammed into Quezon province northeast of Manila around midnight Friday, Philippine authorities evacuated more than 115,000 people in nine provinces east and south of the capital in the storm’s path on main Luzon island, the National Disaster Coordinating Council reported.

At its height, its winds were blowing 93 miles (150 kilometers) per hour and gusting up to 115 mph (185 kph).

One river in Laguna province, south of Manila, overflowed, washing away a bridge and flooding most of lakeside Santa Cruz town. Residents clambered onto roofs to escape the waters, said Mayor Ariel Magcalas.

“We cannot move, this is no joke. The water is high. We need help,” Magcalas said in a public address on Radio DZBB early Saturday.
The muddy floodwater receded as rains eased later in the day, but was still chest-high in some communities.

In Manila, residents hunkered down in their homes overnight as rains beat down on dark, deserted streets. Mirinae passed south of the city of 12 million. The sprawling metropolis saw its worst flooding in 40 years in late September when Tropical Storm Ketsana hit the capital and nearby provinces.

Ketsana was quickly followed by Typhoon Parma, which triggered massive landslides in Luzon’s mountain region. More than 900 people were killed in the storms, and a third then threatened the northern Philippines before veering toward Japan.

Ahead of Saturday’s typhoon, millions of Filipinos had boarded buses for their home provinces for the Nov. 1 All Saints Day holiday, when people visit cemeteries to pay respects to dead relatives in this devoutly Roman Catholic nation.

Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro expressed fear that floods and traffic congestion may trap visitors at graveyards, where people traditionally spend a day or even a night, but few heeded his call to scrap this year’s commemorations. Radio stations reported that large crowds converged on cemeteries even in flooded areas. Carrying candles, food and rain gear, many settled in for an overnight vigil.
At least 14 people died, mostly by drowning, in five provinces and four remained missing, disaster response officials said.

Many flights at Manila’s international and domestic airports were canceled, and about 8,000 ferry passengers were stranded as the coast guard grounded all vessels. Airlines later announced new schedules, and passengers packed terminals trying to catch the earliest flights. The coast guard allowed ferries to resume operations after weathermen lowered all storm alerts.

Associated Press writers Oliver Teves and Hrvoje Hranjski contributed to this report.

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