One Confirmed Dead, 19 Missing In Fierce Storm
MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ The strongest typhoon to hit the Philippines this year swept across central islands today with 125 mph winds, killing five people, sinking ships and forcing thousands of people to flee their homes.
The navy said a merchant ship with 25 crew members was missing off Mindanao island and that 16 boats had sunk off Cebu island. Three sailors were reported missing in the Cebu sinkings.
At least 17 people, including six Americans, were trapped on an oil rig off Palawan island after 68 other workers were evacuated, said Maj. Antonio Babijes, chief of the Manila Rescue Coordinating Center.
He said officials asked U.S. Air Force and Navy authorities to assist in evacuating the rig after a rescue boat was forced back by rough seas. The rig is operated by Alcorn Production-Philippines Inc.
On Panay Island, at least two people were killed, including a 10-year-old boy hit by a falling tree, officials said. Three other bodies were recovered from the surf off Misamis Oriental province on Mindanao, second largest of the 7,100 Philippine islands, officials said.
Casualty reports from Philippine storms often take days to reach Manila because of poor communications.
Typhoon Mike made landfall on Leyte island eary today and by late afternoon was centered over Cuyo Island, 260 miles south of Manila.
Senior forecaster Daniel Dimagiba said the storm’s maximum sustained winds had weakened to 103 mph and that it was moving at 19 mph west-northwest after crossing Leyte, Cebu and Negros and hitting Panay islands.
The storm was expected to pass over Palawan and head into the South China Sea early Wednesday.
Cmdr. Ruben Lista, spokesman of the Philippine navy, said a distress call was received from the cargo ship Dona Roberta early today, saying it was taking on water about 500 miles south of Manila. The coast guard said the ship sank off Sulauan Point near Cagayan de Oro and its 25 crew members were missing.
The coast guard said another ship, the Iligan Flores, was also missing off Mindanao.
In Cebu, Lista said, 16 vessels sank off the Cebu docks and six others ran aground.
He said huge waves pushed a passenger ship into a navy patrol craft and another domestic ferry, sinking the three vessels. He said there were no reports if the vessels were had passengers at the time.
Three navy utility crafts also sank nearby and three sailors were reported missing in two of the vessels, he added.
Officials said three bridges were damaged in Misamis Oriental, hampering travel between the northern Mindanao cities of Cagayan de Oro and Butuan. In Surigao, a city on the north coast of Mindanao, 3,600 people were evacuated from low-lying areas, officials said.
On Negros island, a spokeswoman from the office of the governor of Negros Occidental province said about 9,500 people were forced to flee their homes in six towns. Officials said nearly 200 houses had been destroyed or damaged.
The seas were dangerous to all types of vessels. Philippine Airlines canceled 59 domestic flights, but international flights were unaffected.
The typhoon is the 14th to hit the Philippines this year. About 20 typhoons hit the country yearly.
It was the strongest typhoon to come ashore here this year and the strongest to enter the country’s waters since December, Dimagiba said.
Mike struck Palau island over the weekend, toppling trees, devastating crops and battering buildings.