Typhoon Koppu slams into the Philippines, toppling trees and knocking out power and communications

NewsBy Neil Fetherston
Typhoon Koppu slams into the Philippines, toppling trees and knocking out power and communications

Typhoon Koppu has blown ashore with fierce winds in the north-eastern Philippines, toppling trees and knocking out power and communications.

Officials said there were no immediate reports of casualties, but thousands of villagers were evacuated from the storm’s path, including in towns prone to flash floods and landslides and coastal villages at risk from destructive storm surges.

After slamming into Casiguran town in Aurora province, the typhoon weakened slightly and slowed considerably, hemmed in by the Sierra Madre mountain range and a high pressure area in the country’s north and another typhoon far out in the Pacific to the east, government forecaster Gladys Saludes said.

The centre of the storm was moving slowly west, she said.

 “It has slowed almost to a crawl. We’re hoping it would speed up and spare us sooner,” said Alexander Pama, who heads the government’s main disaster agency that has overseen evacuation and deployment of rescue contingents.

President Benigno Aquino III and disaster-response agencies have warned that Koppu’s rain and wind may potentially bring more damage with its slow speed. But

Ms Saludes said there was less heavy rain than expected initially in some areas, including in the capital Manila, but wind was fierce in many regions.

A wayward barge carrying coal and 10 crew drifted dangerously close to a breakwater in Manila Bay near a seaside boulevard and a coastguard tugboat was deployed to tow it away, spokesman Armand Balilo said.

Koppu was whirling over Aurora with sustained winds of 110mph and gusts of up to 130mph. It was slightly stronger before it hit land, Ms Saludes said.

Forecasters said the typhoon has a cloud band of 372 miles and could dump rain over much of the main northern island of Luzon.

Appearing on nationwide television as the typhoon approached the country, Mr Aquino appealed to the public to heed storm warnings to avoid casualties.

Due to the expected massive evacuation of residents from high-risk regions, about 7.5 million people would need relief assistance, he said.

Koppu, Japanese for “cup”, is the 12th storm to hit the Philippines this year. An average of 20 storms and typhoons each year batter the archipelago, one of the world’s most disaster-prone countries.

In November 2013, Typhoon Haiyan, one of the most ferocious storms on record to hit land, barrelled through the central Philippines, levelling entire towns and leaving more than 7,300 dead or missing