Zaragoza, Oct 19: Army, police and civilian volunteers scrambled today to rescue hundreds of villagers trapped in their flooded homes and on rooftops in a northern Philippine province battered by slow-moving Typhoon Koppu. The typhoon blew ashore into northeastern Aurora province with fierce wind and heavy rains early yesterday, leaving at least two dead, forcing more than 16,000 villagers from their homes, and leaving nine provinces without electricity.(Read: Vast Antarctic marine reserves in focus at Australia talks)
But after its landfall, the typhoon weakened, 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 in the east, government forecasters said. By today morning Koppu was located over Ilocos Norte province with winds of 120 kilometers (74 miles) per hour and gusts of up to 150 kph (93 mph).
Several of the affected provinces, led by Nueva Ecija, were inundated by flash floods that swelled rivers and cascaded down mountainsides, trapping villagers in their homes and on rooftops, said Nigel Lontoc of the Office of Civil Defense. “There were some people who needed to be rescued from the roofs of their homes,” Lontoc told The Associated Press by telephone today.
“But our rescuers couldn’t penetrate because the floodwaters were still high.” Hundreds of soldiers, police and volunteers have converged on Nueva Ecija, a landlocked, rice-growing province in the heartland of the main northern Luzon island, to help villagers whose homes had been flooded, said Lontoc, adding there have been no deaths reported so far in Nueva Ecija’s flooding.
Erwin Jacinto, a 37-year-old resident of Nueva Ecija’s Santa Rosa town, said the flooding turned his farmland into “nothing but mud.” Jacinto spoke from the top of a high-level bridge that juts out from his flooded town and where dozens of farm villagers like him stayed in the open overnight with their families, and their pigs and chickens.
Koppu’s winds knocked down trees and electric posts, leaving nine provinces without power. Authorities suspended dozens of flights and sea voyages, and many cities canceled classes today. A teenager was pinned to death today by a fallen tree, which also injured four people and damaged three houses in metropolitan Manila.
In Subic town, northwest of Manila, a concrete wall collapsed and killed a 62-year-old woman and injured her husband, officials said. President Benigno Aquino III and disaster-response agencies had warned that Koppu’s rain and winds may potentially bring more damage with its slow speed.