Philippine Storm Kills 9 People; 100K Flee Homes

By JIM GOMEZ | May 9, 2011

Tropical storm Aere lashed the northeastern Philippines on Sunday, killing at least nine people and forcing more than 100,000 villagers to flee from farming towns threatened by landslides.

The storm slammed into Catanduanes province with winds of 53 miles (85 kilometers) per hour and gusts of 62 mph (100 kph). It triggered landslides and floods, disrupted transportation and knocked out power in some towns.

More than 4,700 commuters were stranded in several seaports after ferries suspended trips and roads were closed due to floods and the danger of landslides, officials said. Several domestic flights were canceled.

A landslide buried a house in Camarines Sur province’s Balatan township at dawn, killing three people, including a baby, regional disaster-response director Bernardo Alejandro said.

An elderly woman drowned trying to cross a swollen river in Daraga town in Albay province, and a man was electrocuted in a flooded village in Libon town. Three men drowned in Catanduanes and Leyte provinces, and a driver died in a truck crash during stormy weather in Camarines Sur, officials said.

Authorities helped evacuate villagers Saturday in farming communities at the base of Mayon volcano in Albay, where heavy rain threatened to turn into mudslides. Many more fled their homes Sunday as floodwaters began to rise, disaster-response officer Jukes Nunez said.

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

“The villagers evacuated automatically, without resistance,” Alejandro told The Associated Press by telephone. “Many still remember that disaster.”

Officials shut off power in at least four flooded Albay towns to avoid accidents. Albay is about 212 miles (340 kilometers) southeast of Manila.

The second storm to batter the country this year is expected to blow northwestward and exit from the country later this week, government weather forecaster Juanito Galang said.

Lightning struck a Philippine Airlines plane at Manila’s international airport during a thunderstorm late Saturday.

The Airbus 320 was not damaged, and the crew and passengers were not harmed, airline spokeswoman Cielo Villaluna said. The airline flew them on another flight to Bangkok as a precaution.

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