A powerful typhoon cut across the northern Philippines Thursday, hitting the capital with gale-force winds and pounding rain and leaving at least 11 people dead and 34 others missing amid widespread floods and damage, officials said.
The Manila airport, which cancelled domestic and international flights due to the high winds and power outages, resumed operations by early evening.
Typhoon Milenyo (international name Xangsane) toppled more than a dozen high voltage power lines, causing a “total system blackout” on the main Philippine island of Luzon shortly before 1 p.m., said Arvee Villafuerte, spokesman of the state-run National Transmission Corp.
The power shutdown has affected an estimated 43 million people, just under half the national population of 85 million people.
He said the power restoration was slow because of the extent of the damage, adding that only about 12 percent of the entire Luzon grid was back up by 5 p.m. The blackout and debris left Manila without traffic and streetlights, causing gridlocks in some areas. Hotels and shops used their own generators.
The Office of Civil Defense and local officials reported at least 11 people were killed, including a drunken man who fell into a river in central Antique province, a driver pinned under the steel frames of a giant billboard that fell on his van in Manila’s financial district of Makati, and a man hit by a falling tree in Albay province southeast of Manila.
A stonewall toppled by strong winds killed two more people in Muntinglupa town, a falling wall also crushed a man in Santo Tomas town, just south of Manila, local radio reports said.
Another person was killed by a falling tree in Santa Cruz town, south of the capital while one man was killed and four others were missing and feared dead in the town of Calauan, south of Manila, local officials and rescuers said.
Local radio also reported 30 people were missing in Cavite province, south of Manila after a damn burst, governor Irineo Malicsi said on local radio.
A woman was electrocuted by a fallen power line in Quezon province, just east of Manila, officials said.
The typhoon packed maximum winds of 130 kilometers per hour and gusts of up to 160 kph when it made landfall overnight in the central Bicol region, where it knocked down electricity in five provinces.
It weakened into a storm with 110 kph winds as it passed over Manila, and moved to the South China Sea Thursday evening, heading west toward Vietnam at 22 kph with gusts of up to 140 kph, forecasters said.
Gale-force winds toppled trees and heavy downpours triggered landslides, blocking some provincial roads. The typhoon also shut schools, ferries and the country’s financial markets, and forced officials to suspend two commuter trains in metropolitan Manila. A much-awaited college league basketball championship game was postponed.
Antique’s acting governor Eduardo Fortaleza said rescue workers evacuated about 100 residents who were trapped on an islet in the middle of a raging river in Barbaza town.
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo held a teleconference with her disaster management officials in Manila from the northern Clark economic zone, where she was forced to wait out the storm.
She returned to the presidential palace hours later after crisscrossing the city to avoid roads blocked by fallen trees and other debris, reporters traveling in her convoy said.
Strong winds toppled a row of trees on Manila’s bayside boulevard and knocked down billboards near the US and Japanese embassies, blocking traffic. Workers used chain saws to clear the roads amid howling winds and blinding rain.
Some residents in flooded areas ferried people across streets under knee-deep water on makeshift rafts, charging about P20 per person.
It was the strongest typhoon to hit Manila in 11 years. In November 1995, the 260-kph super typhoon Angela battered the Philippine capital after slicing through central provinces, leaving 936 people dead.
Schools in Manila and four neighboring provinces will be closed for another day Friday, officials said.
Xangsane, the Laotian word for elephant, is the 10th typhoon this season.