Super Typhoon Drives Thousands of Filipinos from their Homes, Swamps Taiwan, Vietnam
7 die in typhoon-triggered landslide at temple
Bus with 19 tourists missing as Megi hits Taiwan hard; Vietnam death toll climbs to 75 after bus is swept away
Msnbc.com news sources, Oct. 22. 2010
HONG KONG — Seven people were killed when a mudslide buried a Buddhist temple and a bus containing 19 Chinese tourists was missing Friday, as one of the worst typhoons in 50 years battered Taiwan.
Six other people were missing and a number of vehicles were trapped on a highway as Typhoon Megi swept toward southern China, where landfall is expected late Friday or Saturday.
The storm earlier killed 26 people and damaged homes and crops in the Philippines.
Megi dumped a record 45 inches of rain in Taiwan's Ilan county over 48 hours. It had winds of 90 mph and was about 275 miles southeast of Hong Kong on Friday evening local time, the Hong Kong Observatory said.
The seven people who died were at the White Cloud Temple in Suao city along the eastern oast when it was engulfed by the mudslide, Taiwanese cable TV stations reported.
Rescuers were using bulldozers to try to dig out six other people, Ilan county chief Lin Tsong-hsien said.
Two buses carrying Chinese tourists were on a six-mile stretch of a coastal highway in Ilan that was hit by at least seven rockslides Thursday night, Premier Wu Den-yih said.
Nineteen people on one bus were rescued — five with light to moderate injuries — but the Taiwanese driver and the Chinese tour guide were still missing, Wu said.
There had been no contact with the 19 tourists aboard the other bus, he said.
TV news reported a 500-yard stretch of the highway had collapsed. The rockslides trapped about 30 vans, buses and cars, officials said.
Air force helicopters were searching for the missing bus and 340 other travelers cut off by the rockslides, Interior Minister Chiang Yi-hua said. Those 340 travelers were not in any immediate danger, officials said.
The storm dumped heavy rains throughout Taiwan, but Ilan, about 90 miles southeast of Taipei, was the hardest hit.
Authorities said more than 2,500 residents had been evacuated. Broad swaths of farmland in the county were under many feet of water.
Earlier this week, Megi killed more than two dozen people and damaged thousands of homes in the northern Philippines.
The storm also forced 55,000 Filipinos from their homes and caused about $175 million in damage to infrastructure and crops, disaster officials said.
Megi was expected to hit China's southern Guangdong and Fujian provinces between Friday night and Saturday, meteorologists said.
'Super strong' storm
In Fujian, authorities said 161,800 people were evacuated to safer places.
An official in Guangdong's Shantou city said fishermen were told to return to ports and authorities designated some 200 buildings in the city as emergency shelters.
“This kind of strong typhoon is very rare for this season in Shantou. We are treating it as a 'super strong typhoon' and making our preparations accordingly," said a relief official who only gave his surname, Chen.
A string of ports and oil terminals in southern China had closed operations on Thursday as marine authorities said the typhoon could generate a huge and destructive "50-year storm surge" along the China coastline.
Hong Kong's main port remained partially shut, with leading port operator Hongkong International Terminals halting the processing of containers, the company said.
Megi has got weaker and it was expected to hit China's Fujian province as a category 1 typhoon — down from a 3 on a 1-5 severity scale — and then fade to a tropical storm, Forecasting service Tropical Storm Risk said.
"It's showing signs of weakening," said Lee Tsz-cheung, a senior scientific officer with the Hong Kong Observatory. "We expect the intensity will gradually decrease until it makes landfall and decreases further."
While Megi bypassed Vietnam, the country's central region was pummeled by about four-and-a-half feet of rain over the past week, inundating large swaths of land, submerging nearly 280,000 houses and forcing more than 170,000 villagers from their homes.
The death toll from severe flooding in four central Vietnamese provinces climbed to 75, including 14 victims from a bus swept off a road by strong currents, with six passengers still missing, disaster officials said Friday.
Meanwhile, another storm, Cyclone Giri, was spinning in the Bay of Bengal and likely to make landfall Saturday in western Myanmar.
The storm was expected to hit with winds of 75 mph and a tidal surge as high as 12 feet. In 2008, Cyclone Nargis killed 130,000 people in Myanmar.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.
Typhoon Megi heading towards China
Storm exits after killing 10 people and destroying vast tracts of rice and corn crops in the Philippines
Al Jazeera.net, Oct. 19, 2010
After destroying huge tracts of rice and killing almost a dozen people in the Philippines, Super Typhoon Megi is heading towards China, where officials have warned the storm may be the worst to strike this year.
Tropical Storm Risk's projections show the storm is expected to turn away from Vietnam towards China, with the centre passing between Hainan island and Hong Kong.
On Monday, China's National Meteorological Centre urged local governments to make full preparations for extreme weather.
Some 140,000 people have been evacuated from 15 cities on Hainan island since heavy rains reached the province on Friday, Xinhua, the official news agency, reported.
In the Philippines, Megi - known locally as Juan - was a category 5 super typhoon that packed winds in excess of 250 kph (155 mph).
Megi struck northeastern Luzon, the country's main island, shortly before noon on Monday leaving at least 10 people dead, a low tally for such a strong typhoon.
The government's timely preparations for the storm, which led to the evacuation of some 7,000 people and sending lorries and other vehicles to help with rescue and relief operations, appears to have minimised the toll.
Alex Rosete, the national Red Cross spokesman, said four people were killed in Pangasinan province, three of them by a collapsed structure and the other by lightning.
Three other people drowned in a storm surge that hit the coastal town of Maconacon in Isabela province, which bore the brunt of the storm, Faustino Dy, a provincial governor, said.
Fuller assessments of the damage were expected on Tuesday, although the typhoon had cut power and communications in many areas.
The damage to rice and corn is still being assessed and if it proves huge, the Southeast Asian country could be forced to import more of the foodstuffs.
"You have to provide food - what else could we do?" Maura Lizarondo, assistant director of the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics, told the AFP news agency.
The crops were ready for harvest when the storm, the most powerful typhoon to hit the Philippines in four years, struck.
A state of calamity had been declared in some of the affacted areas.
The military said the typhoon's fury was felt in Cagayan and Isabela provinces, where trees were uprooted and roofs of houses blown away. Some areas had zero visibility.
Officials said the US military, holding a nine-day drill with Filipino counterparts, had offered seven helicopters to deliver relief goods and rescue marooned residents if needed.
The Philippines is battered by an average of 20 typhoons a year, some of them deadly.
Tropical Storm Ketsana and Typhoon Parma struck the northern Philippine island of Luzon within a week of each other in September and October last year, triggering the worst flooding in recent history.
The twin storms killed more than 1,000 people, affected nearly 10 million and caused damage to $4.3bn of infrastructure and property, according to the World Bank and international humanitarian agencies.
Super Typhoon Megi hits northern Philippines
BBCNews.com, Oct. 18, 2010
At least one person has been reported killed, and thousands have fled their homes. Emergency services are on alert, and many schools are closed.
Typhoon Megi is the strongest storm the Philippines has faced for four years.
In 2006, a storm with winds of 155km/h triggered mudslides, burying villages and killing about 1,000 people.
Tropical cyclones formed in the Pacific Ocean are called typhoons, but are classified on a scale of one to five in the same way as Atlantic Ocean hurricanes.
Strong typhoons with sustained winds of at least 130 knots (150mph; 240km/h), are referred to as super typhoons, according to the US Navy's Joint Typhoon Warning Center.
Forecasters said Megi was a super typhoon as it made landfall, but weakened slightly as it made its way across the northern Philippines.
The northern provinces of Cagayan and Isabela are on the highest storm alert, and were braced for heavy damage as Megi made landfall on Monday morning.
Thousands of people in Isabela were sheltering in communal buildings, away from coastal areas, and waiting out the storm, reports said.
Reuters news agency reported that Megi hit north-eastern Isabela at about 1125 (0325 GMT), and said the Philippines had declared a "state of calamity" in the north as the storm neared. There are particular concerns that the region's crucial rice crop could be damaged.
However, wind speed was weakening as the storm hit mountainous areas in the centre of the northern Philippines.
Megi was reclassified as a regular typhoon as it headed towards the eastern seaboard of the northern Philippines, but was expected to strengthen again as it moved towards China.
Authorities in China are reported to have evacuated more than 100,000 people from the anticipated path of the storm.
'Preparing for war'
Details from the areas directly in the path of the storm have been slow to emerge, but the Associated Press reported huge waves and strong rains as well as powerful winds that brought down power lines.
"We are marooned inside our home. We cannot go out. The winds and rain are very strong. Many trees are being uprooted or snapped in half," Ernesto Macadangdang, of Burgos, Isabela, told local radio.
One man in Cagayan was reported missing after he fell into the fast-flowing Buntun river. The man was named as Vicente Decena, a candidate in next week's local elections.
Disaster management teams are on high alert - stockpiling food and medicines, and preparing boats and helicopters to rescue those affected by the typhoon.
The authorities are under huge pressure to get their rescue effort right this time.
There was a lot of criticism over their handling of Typhoon Ketsana last year.
Many people who were trapped in the floodwaters said they were completely reliant on aid agencies or church organisations rather than the government.
There was further embarrassment in July this year when the weather bureau forecast that a typhoon would miss Manila.
It struck the capital, killing about 100 people. The head of the state weather bureau was sacked as a result.
Officials have warned that the heavy rain and high winds could damage buildings, power supplies and agriculture.
Emergency services have been stocking up on food and medicines, says the BBC's Kate McGeown in the capital, Manila.
Government forecasters say waves off the east coast could be greater than 14m (46ft).
Sea travel has been banned. The coast guard has been instructed to forbid all fishing vessels from setting out to sea in the north, says AFP news agency.
Thousands of soldiers and officers are on standby to deliver aid and rescue people stranded by the floods.
Trucks, rescue boats and food packs have been pre-positioned near vulnerable areas, said Benito Ramos, a senior disaster-response official.
"This is like preparing for war," he told the Associated Press. "We know the past lessons and we're aiming for zero casualties."
Schools in the north were closed on Monday.
Farmers were urged to harvest as many of their crops as possible before the typhoon hit, our correspondent says.
The area in the storm's path is one of the country's main rice-growing regions.
In July, President Benigno Aquino sacked the head of the weather bureau after he failed to predict a typhoon which unexpectedly changed course and hit Manila, killing more than 100 people.