Fierce storm lashes Philippines

One of the strongest typhoons to hit the Philippines for several years has battered the north of the country.

Typhoon Cimaron's torrential rain and winds of 200km/h (124mph) shut schools and offices and disrupted transport.

A 28-year-old woman and her child were among at least 13 people reported killed on the island of Luzon.

Last month more than 200 people were killed by Typhoon Xangsane. Cimaron has weakened as it moves westward and is believed to be heading towards Vietnam.

Forecasters predict it will reach the Vietnamese coast late on Wednesday.

'Expecting the worst'

Cimaron - the most powerful typhoon to hit the Philippines since 1998 - made landfall on Sunday evening, lashing mountainous and agricultural regions of Luzon island.

"The wind is really blowing strong. Trees are swaying and I can hear tin roof sheets banging about. Large areas are without light. We're expecting the worst," Armand Araneta, an Isabela province civil defence official, told the Associated Press news agency.

Some 15 provinces in Luzon were believed to have been affected by the typhoon.

The 28-year-old woman and her child were killed in the coastal Aurora province, where flimsy houses were blown away.

Six people were reported to have been killed in the province of Isabela, and at least three people drowned in Neuva Vizcaya province. Landslides claimed the lives of a four-year-old girl and a 53-year-old man.

Thousands of people in low-lying areas were forced to flee to higher ground to avoid flooding. Widespread blackouts were reported as power lines were brought down in parts of the region.

Three domestic flights from the capital, Manila, to northern destinations were cancelled on Monday. Bus services were also halted.

Schools remained closed on Monday, and Education Secretary Jesli Lapus said it was unclear whether they would open again on Tuesday.

President Gloria Arroyo, currently visiting China, made a radio appeal to the nation and urged citizens "not to venture out if there is no need for that".

"Let's follow the order of our officials and let us all pray," she said.

Many Filipinos have been travelling back to their hometowns this week for the Roman Catholic festival of All Saints' Day on Wednesday, when people pay their respects to the dead.

Luzon is a key rice-growing area, and crops have been already been affected by Typhoon Xangsane, which killed more than 200 people and caused widespread damage to the electricity grid creating chaos in Manila for several days.

The Philippines is hit by about 20 typhoons every year.

30/10/2006

Bron : BBC News

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