Philippines’ toll from Typhoon Utor rises to 74; Arroyo surveys damage


MANILA, AFP

The death toll from Typhoon Utor’s sweep through the Philippines this week rose to 74, with another 49 still missing and 130 injured, rescuers said Friday.

Fifty-nine deaths were listed in the northern mountain city of Baguio and the nearby provinces of Benguet, Abra, Mountain Province and Apayao — mostly victims of landslides that struck the northern Cordillera region at the height of the typhoon on Wednesday and Thursday.

There were 14 other deaths in the northern provinces of Pangasinan and Cagayan, and one in the central island of Panay, according to civil defense office and coast guard tallies.

President Gloria Arroyo surveyed the damage in a visit to flood-submerged Pangasinan, and later said she was “saddened” by the deaths and damage.

Utor, packing gusts of 170 kilometers (105 miles) per hour, cut power and telephone lines, flattened more than 2,400 houses and dumped heavy rain across the main island of Luzon, causing widespread flooding and displacing at least 300,300 people, the civil defense office said.

Some road links to Baguio, which had been isolated by landslides, have been restored, but almost a dozen roads in the northern Philippines were still impassable due to floods, landslides and fallen trees.

Five bridges in the north were washed out by floods.

Initial estimated damage to infrastructure and agriculture was placed at 105 million pesos (US$1.9 million), the civil defense office added.

The storm blew out of the Philippines on Thursday and headed for southern China, where it appeared to be abating on Friday.

Arroyo expressed confidence that government relief agencies could deal with the effects of the storm and said she was happy that Manila was largely spared the chronic flooding that previously occurred with every typhoon.

She attributed this to a renewed effort to clean out garbage from streets which usually clogged drains.

Arroyo said there would be a “sustained effort” to minimize flooding considering that the country faces an average of 12 typhoons a year.

The president also appealed to the public not to use rivers and canals as “garbage dumps.”