‘Ompong’ claims first victims

Typhoon Ompong (international name: Mangkhut), the biggest storm of the year, smashed through the Philippines on Saturday, claiming its first victims as two women were killed when a rain-drench hillside collapsed on them.

The massive storm cut a swathe of destruction when it struck the northern tip of Luzon island, threatening the lives and homes of roughly four million people.

The two lifeless bodies of the two women were pulled from the soil of a hillside that collapsed after the storm’s torrential rains, police said.

“As we go forward, this number will go higher,” Ricardo Jalad, head of the national civil defense office, told reporters, referring to the death toll.

As the powerful storm left the Southeast Asian archipelago and barreled towards densely populated Hong Kong and southern China, search teams began surveying the provinces that suffered a direct hit.

Rescue workers clear a road of debris and toppled electric posts caused by strong winds due to Typhoon Ompong as they try to reach Baggao town in Cagayan province, north of Manila September 15, 2018. AFP PHOTO

“We believe there has been a lot of damage,” said Social Welfare Secretary Virginia Orogo as thousands of evacuees took refuge in emergency shelters.

Ompong was packing sustained winds of 170 kilometers per hour and gusts of up to 260 km per hour as it left the Philippines.

An average of 20 typhoons and storms lash the Philippines each year, killing hundreds of people and leaving millions in near-perpetual poverty.

Thousands of people fled their homes in high-risk areas ahead of the storm’s arrival because of major flooding and landslide risks.

In Taiwan, a woman was swept away by high waves caused by the typhoon, the government said.

After blasting the Philippines, the typhoon is predicted to hurtle towards China’s heavily populated southern coast this weekend.

“They [authorities]said this typhoon is twice as strong as the last typhoon, that’s why we are terrified,” Myrna Parallag, 53, said after fleeing her home in the northern Philippines.

“We learned our lesson last time. The water reached our roof,” she said, referring to when her family rode out a typhoon at home in 2016.

The country’s deadliest on record is Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), which left more than 7,350 people dead or missing across the central Philippines in November 2013. AFP

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