3 Dead As Storm Hits Philippines

MANILA (AFP) – Tropical storm Aere slammed into the eastern Philippine coast on Sunday, bringing heavy rains and landslides that have so far killed nine people and forced thousands to leave their homes.

The Philippines’ state weather bureau said Aere made landfall over the island of Catanduanes before noon and moved northwest over the main Philippine island of Luzon.

Nine people were killed due to landslides, drowning and fallen power lines, mostly in the eastern Bicol region and Catanduanes, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said in a statement.

Authorities in Bicol scrambled their rescue and relief missions but were hampered by the rough weather.

“The provincial road going to the (area) is not passable due to flooding,” said Inspector Ayn Natuel, a spokesman at the Bicol regional police headquarters.

Aere, the first major storm of the year, hit Catanduanes, an island of about 250,000 people, with winds hitting 85 kilometres (53 miles) per hour at its centre and gusts reaching 100 kilometres.

Storm alert warnings have been hoisted over most of Luzon which will continue to endure heavy rains into Monday, the government weather station said.

The disaster management council said more than 70,000 people were evacuated to safer ground as a preemptive measure in the eastern Bicol and in central Visayas regions.

Landslides were also reported near Ormoc city in the central Philippines, while there was widespread flooding in many areas, it said.

Among those affected by the storm was Philippine President Benigno Aquino who delayed his departure from Indonesia from Sunday night to Monday morning to avoid the weather disturbance, a presidential spokesman said.

More than 4,700 commuters meanwhile were stranded in various Bicol ports after the coast guard banned sea travel by inter-island ferries.

At least 38 domestic flights were also cancelled by Manila airport authorities due to the bad weather.

The state weather bureau said Aere was moving at a pace of 15 kilometres an hour and was expected to bring more rains and wreak havoc in the northern parts of Luzon island until Monday.

Residents in those areas were “advised to take all the necessary precautions against possible flashfloods and landslides.”

“Likewise, those living in coastal areas are alerted against big waves or storm surges generated by this tropical cyclone,” the agency said.

In Manila, nine ground staff were injured when lightning struck a plane on the tarmac during a heavy downpour on Saturday night, radio reports said.

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