Four dead as typhoon slams into Philippines

Typhoon Cimaron whipped a deadly trail on Monday across the northern Philippines, blowing away houses and triggering landslides and floods that killed at least four people, disaster relief officials said.

Hundreds of families were forced to evacuate their homes as Cimaron, one of the strongest typhoons to strike the Philippines in recent years, pounded the northern part of Luzon Island at gusts of up to 230km per hour.

A 28-year-old woman and her child, six, were killed in a coastal village in Aurora province, where police chief Teodoro Saklolo said the winds blew away houses made of light material and wood.

Saklolo said some low-lying areas in Aurora were also flooded after heavy rains fell overnight.

A four-year-old girl and a 53-year-old man were crushed to death by boulders and mud in separate incidents in Benguet and Kalinga provinces.

In Isabela province, police were trying to confirm reports that five people drowned in rampaging flood waters caused by the typhoon, which also uprooted trees and toppled power lines.

Manila airport authorities cancelled three domestic flights going to the north, while buses and private vehicles were off the roads.

The Office of Civil Defence said the typhoon weakened slightly after passing through the Cordillera Mountain range, and was expected to blow out into the South China Sea later on Monday.

However, Cimaron’s tail was still expected to whip large areas in the north until Tuesday, said Civil Defence spokesperson Anthony Golez.

Forecasters said the typhoon was weakening as it tracked westward, although it would continue to bring heavy rains until Tuesday.

Provincial emergency service officials in Aurora province said they had conducted a “preventive evacuation” of 367 families from low-lying areas in at least three towns isolated by floodwaters.

Nearly 100 families were also evacuated in La Union province, they said.

Strong winds also damaged more than 300 houses, while a landslide in Baguio City buried a house and injured three people.

“The figures are very fluid,” Golez said, adding that reports from other provinces had yet to trickle in to the Manila headquarters. President Gloria Arroyo called her Cabinet officials after the typhoon made landfall on Sunday night and ordered school classes suspended in affected areas.

Philippine National Red Cross secretary general Corazaon de Leon said all the agency’s branches in affected areas were on high alert.

“We have told all our chapters to mobilise generators because of our problem with power outages,” she said. “Our priorities now are those in the evacuation centers who are most vulnerable.”

The Office of Civil Defense in Manila said army troops, the coast guard and navy were also alerted to provide support, and state hospitals were preparing for more possible victims.

Many parts of Luzon are still rebuilding after Typhoon Xangsane carved its own trail of destruction earlier this month, killing more than 200 people and leaving hundreds of thousands homeless.

Power was out for nearly three weeks in some affected areas, including some suburbs near the capital Manila.

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