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25 dead as typhoon hits China, flight chaos in Hong Kong
by Staff Writers
Hong Kong (AFP) Sept 23, 2013


Heavy rains leave 18 dead in Philippines
Olongapo City, Philippines (AFP) Sept 23, 2013 - Monsoon rains worsened by Typhoon Usagi pounded the Philippines for the third day on Monday, causing floods and landslides that left 18 people dead and others stranded on rooftops, officials said.

The most severely affected area was the province of Zambales, about 80 kilometres (51 miles) northwest of Manila where heavy rains caused rain-soaked soil to cascade down, killing 17 people in different parts of the province, said assistant civil defence director Nigel Lontoc.

"They were surprised by the rain. It happened before dawn so they might have been asleep at the time," he told AFP.

"This is mountainous area and there are many houses on the slopes. The rain must have really weakened the soil," he added.

A 67-year-old woman drowned when her home was submerged by a flood in Olongapo City, also in Zambales, he added.

The mayor of Subic town, Jay Khonghun, where the majority of victims died, said the heavy rains and chest-deep floods had isolated the town of 160,000.

Although many people were rescued, about a hundred remained trapped on their rooftops by the rising waters, he said.

Government employee Cristina Humbert, 35, said the ground floor of her two-storey home had been flooded but she managed to evacuate with her 63-year-old mother to higher ground.

"Many are on the rooftops, waiting for help. They are marooned, and are getting hungry and cold. We have no power, no electricity," she told AFP.

Khonghun said four rivers that pass through Subic were heavily silted and had overflowed, causing the floods. He called on the national government to come to the town's aid.

"We are appealing for rescuers, equipment, diggers, we need relief goods. We need help from the national government, please send in inflatable boats," he said.

Classes were called off throughout the Philippine capital and surrounding areas due to flooding that reached more than five feet (1.5 metres) in some places, said Myrna Puzon, an officer at the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

In the city Olongapo, neighbouring Subic, local officials put up ropes across flooded streets so people could hold on to them to keep from being swept away by strong currents, eyewitnesses said.

People there carried their shivering children as they waded through the floodwaters amid submerged cars, an AFP reporter at the scene said.

Olongapo City Mayor Rolen Paulino asked US ambassador Harry Thomas to send some of the US Marines now in the Philippines for joint war games, to help in relief efforts, his spokesman said.

About 2,300 US and Philippine marines are taking part in three-week long joint exercises, many of them to be conducted in Zambales.

Typhoon Usagi passed the northern Philippines this weekend and has moved away from the country but it continues to exacerbate monsoon rains.

Two people were killed and three are still missing from the storm's onslaught.

Typhoon Usagi killed at least 25 people after crashing ashore in southern China, throwing the region's transport systems into chaos and leaving tens of thousands of airline passengers stranded in Hong Kong on Monday.

Schools and businesses were shut as activity in the normally teeming financial hub slowed to a crawl after Usagi -- the world's most powerful storm this year -- battered a long swathe of coastline with torrential rain and winds of up to 165 kilometres (103 miles) per hour during the night.

The deaths were reported by Chinese state media after Usagi made landfall near Shanwei city in Guangdong province northeast of Hong Kong on Sunday evening, prompting the highest-level alert from the National Meteorological Center.

The reports by Xinhua news agency did not say how the 25 were killed but said all the deaths were in Guangdong after the typhoon brought down trees and damaged roads. Dozens more were injured in accidents, it added.

Bullet trains from Guangzhou city to Beijing were suspended and Xinhua said winds were strong enough near Shanwei to blow cars off the road. More than 47,000 fishing boats were in harbour and schools were closed in 14 coastal cities.

China's civil affairs ministry said 226,000 people were relocated due to the storm and more than 7,100 houses collapsed or were badly damaged.

The typhoon cost the province 3.24 billion yuan ($529.5 million dollars) in direct economic losses, it said in a statement.

Usagi had previously killed two people in the Philippines and unleashed landslides and power outages across southern Taiwan at the weekend as it ploughed through the Luzon Strait with ferocious winds and heavy downpours.

Monsoon rains worsened by Usagi brought flooding on Monday to the Philippine capital Manila and nearby provinces.

As the typhoon bore down on Hong Kong, operators shut down one of the world's busiest sea ports and nearly 450 flights were either cancelled or delayed on Sunday as Cathay Pacific and other airlines imposed preemptive suspensions.

Strongest typhoon for years

Hong Kong's Observatory said it was the strongest typhoon to brush the city since 1979. Tens of thousands of people had their travel plans upended with ferries and trains also disrupted, while Cathay resumed flights only from noon (0400 GMT) on Monday.

Many passengers were forced to stay overnight at the airport, sleeping on the floor or spending the night playing card games. Many milled around the departure hall hoping to rebook their flights.

But handwritten signs warned them that there was little chance of getting standby seats on flights out Monday and to check back later.

"We've waited for so long... and we still can't leave. Who would not be unhappy?" Iris Ouyang, an irate 26-year-old marketing officer from Beijing told AFP, after waiting more than 12 hours for her China Southern flight.

"Before we had good feelings towards Hong Kong, but not anymore."

Lau Ka-Wing, a passenger from Hong Kong, was equally frustrated.

"I tried to contact them (airline) and no one picked up the phone. The only way I can do is come over to the airport but no one served me," he complained.

Airlines scrambled to clear the backlog of passengers by regrouping passengers and arranging extra flights as more than 1,000 passengers waited in the check-in area.

But airport authorities foresaw a second day of flight disruptions, with more than 480 scheduled flights being cancelled or delayed on Monday.

Officials in Hong Kong, which is well versed in typhoon preparations, said 13 people were injured during the storm, while more than 60 trees had fallen.

Major thoroughfares were empty and signboards swayed in the wind early Monday, but some residents ignored official warnings and headed out to the coast to brave the wind.

The city's stock market opened at 1pm on Monday after all storm warning signals were lowered.

On its way towards southern China, Usagi had forced the evacuation of 3,400 people in southern Taiwan.

Twelve people were injured in Kinmen, a Taiwan-controlled island off China's Fujian province, after they were hit by falling trees.

Prior to hitting Taiwan, Usagi brushed the far north of the Philippines where a man and a woman drowned on Friday when their boat capsized in high seas. Another three people remain missing.

jit-burs/ac/sm/ia

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SHAKE AND BLOW
Flight chaos as typhoon lashes southern China, killing three
Hong Kong (AFP) Sept 22, 2013
Severe Typhoon Usagi killed at least three people as it smashed into southern China Sunday, shutting down one of the world's busiest sea ports in nearby Hong Kong and throwing flight schedules into disarray. Usagi, described by meteorologists as the most powerful storm on Earth this year, packed winds of 165 kilometres (103 miles) per hour as it hit land in China's densely populated Pearl Ri ... read more


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