Typhoon Megi leaves thousands homeless in Philippines


SUPER TYPHOON Megi crashed into the Philippines yesterday, killing at least three people, forcing thousands out of their homes and devastating large swathes of farmland, as Vietnam and China steeled themselves for the tropical cyclone’s imminent arrival.

Vietnam has already had 30 deaths due to flooding in recent days after heavy rains which over the last month have resulted in the deaths of 86 people.

Some 20 people were missing yesterday after a bus was washed away, including a small boy pulled from his mother’s arms, as the bus travelled on the country’s main highway from the Central Highlands province of Dak Nong to the capital, Hanoi. Rainfall of up to 800mm has caused widescale damage and forced 126,000 people to flee their homes.

There are fears in Vietnam that Megi, if it hits, could cause even more damage, and even if it fails to hit the country directly, more rain is likely. Megi, named after a catfish in South Korea, is the 15th storm of the season and is one of the strongest tropical cyclones ever recorded.

Winds of up to 270km/h lashed Palanan Bay in the Philippine province of Isabela, blowing over trees and electricity pylons, which led to power cuts and telecoms problems. TV images showed people struggling to walk as winds howled.

A man in Isabela drowned after he fell into a river while trying to rescue his water buffalo. Meanwhile, a woman was killed when a tamarind tree crushed her home in Kalinga province. The winds eased as Megi crossed the main northern island of Luzon.

The typhoon, which was named “Juan” in the Philippines, had moved out to sea by late evening.

The weather is a political issue in the Philippines. In July, President Benigno Aquino III fired the state weather forecaster for failing to predict that a typhoon would hit the capital, Manila.

The cyclone killed more than 100 people in the city and its surrounding provinces.

In China, where thousands have lost their lives in weather-related disasters already this year, authorities evacuated 140,000 people from the coastal province of Hainan ahead of the typhoon. Here, too, heavy rains in recent days have left thousands of people homeless.

The typhoon could hit the area near Hong Kong, with winds of up to 185km/h.

China has issued an early disaster warning, and disaster-response authorities have ordered officials in regions along the southern coast – Hainan, Guangdong, Guangxi and Fujian – to prepare emergency supplies and to prepare residents for possible floods and landslides.

Torrential downpours are likely in coming days, including in provinces inland, the Xinhua news agency reported.

Wei Liucheng, party secretary of Hainan, and Luo Baoming, the provincial governor, have ordered reservoirs in the province to be secured and issued instructions for evacuating residents who live downstream from them.

In Thailand, flooding killed at least four people and submerged thousands of homes.

Nearly 100 elephants had to be evacuated from a popular tourist attraction north of the capital, Bangkok.