The Heat Is Online

Three-day Storm Kills 15 in Phillippines

Severe Storm Sweeps Northern Philippines, 15 Dead, May 28, 2003

MANILA (Reuters) - A tropical storm lashed the northern Philippines for a third day on Wednesday, raising the death toll to 15 and causing widespread flooding, but rice farmers welcomed the rains after two months of dry, hot weather.

Linfa, packing winds of up to 56 mph, has drenched the main island of Luzon since Monday, forcing more than 160 families to flee their homes and damaging 140 houses.

"It continues to move northeast in the general direction of the southern islands of Japan," the weather office said in an advisory on Wednesday afternoon.

Floods made many roads impassable in the capital Manila, home to 10 million people, and government offices have been closed since midday on Tuesday.

Six of the victims drowned, two were killed in landslides, two died when a tree fell on a minibus and three were electrocuted. One woman was killed by lightning and a baby girl died from severe cold.

The storm has caused headaches for stores and restaurants waiting for deliveries, but Trade and Industry Secretary Manuel Roxas assured consumers there was an adequate supply of basic items such as rice, meat, vegetables and canned goods.

While Linfa was moving away from land, torrential rain forced President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to postpone a trip to inspect troops fighting Muslim rebels on the southern island of Mindanao.

Agriculture Secretary Luis Lorenzo told Reuters there was no damage to the rice crop as harvesting had just finished.

"In fact, this should be beneficial to rice farmers," he said, adding that ample water supply in dams would help farmers preparing to plant the next crop.

The nation of more than 7,000 islands is typically hit by about 20 typhoons or tropical storms from June to November.

The most destructive was Typhoon Thelma, which struck the island of Leyte in November 1991 and unleashed massive floods in Ormoc City that drowned about 5,000 people. In November 1995, 772 people were killed when Typhoon Angela hammered Luzon.