9 killed, 10 Missing as Typhoon Conson Lashes Philippines

July 15, 2010

The first typhoon to lash the Philippines this year killed at least nine people and left 11 others missing Wednesday after flooding streets in the capital and toppling power lines.

Typhoon Conson slammed into northeast Quezon province with winds of 75 miles (120 kilometers) per hour late Tuesday and weakened into a tropical storm as it crossed rice-growing Luzon Island and buffeted the sprawling capital with strong gusts and heavy rain for about two hours, said weather forecaster Bernie de Leon.

The storm blew out of Manila before dawn Wednesday, leaving downed branches, trees and scattered trash. Winds ripped tarpaulin billboards along the main roads and blew away roofs of coastal shanties.

Workers rushed to fix damaged power lines that left more than half of the main northern island without electricity. The National Grid Corporation of the Philippines said it would take two to three days to normalize the situation, with Manila getting only half its needs and hotels and malls running their own generators.

Conson moved into the South China Sea and was projected to make another landfall on the Chinese mainland west of Macau later this week.

Among the fatalities were a woman and her daughter who were hit by a falling tree in Cavite province’s Trece Martires city south of Manila, regional disaster operations officer Fred Bragas said.

Provincial spokesman Filomeno Maligaya told DZBB radio that another child drowned after falling into a raging river.

A 12-year-old girl and her 4-year-old brother also were killed when a large mango tree crashed into their home as they were sleeping in nearby Batangas province, Bragas said. A 47-year-old woman was electrocuted by a power line that snapped at the height of the typhoon, he said.

In coastal Camarines Norte province, southeast of Manila, at least three people were killed, said military spokesman Maj. Harold Cabunoc. He gave no details.

He said that local authorities and civilian volunteers on Wednesday rescued nine of 19 fishermen who had disappeared when big waves churned out by the typhoon overturned their boats off the island province of Catanduanes.

The national disaster council reported that some communities in Manila were flooded by knee-deep waters. Up to 3,100 people were stranded in ports waiting for the weather to clear.

Despite preparations by disaster relief agencies to avoid the repetition of last year’s calamity when nearly 1,000 people were killed in typhoon-triggered floods in and around Manila, the newly elected President Benigno Aquino III scolded the weather bureau for failing to predict that the storm would hit the capital.

“I hope this is the last time we are all brought to areas different from where we should be,” Aquino told officials during a meeting of the National Disaster Coordinating Council, noting that government agencies were relying on the weather bureau for their preparations.

Weather bureau chief Prisco Nilo explained that it takes forecasters six hours to update weather bulletins in making predictions. The weather bureau has complained of lack of funding and equipment.

The Manila International Airport Authority said 63 flights, including four international, have been canceled and nine were diverted to the central Philippine international airport since late Tuesday.

Classes were suspended in grade and high schools and most universities in Manila. Several government offices, including the Senate, also suspended work due to the power outage. Thousands of commuters were stranded when the blackouts disrupted train services.

Associated Press writers Jim Gomez, Teresa Cerojano and Hrvoje Hranjski contributed to this report.

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