MANILA, Philippines – Two people have been killed in a powerful typhoon that grazed the Philippines’ northeastern tip, according to authorities who said Monday, May 11, that the evacuation of coastal villages and volcanic slopes averted a higher toll.
Many of the thousands who fled the storm’s path started to return home after Typhoon Dodong (international codename Noul) – the fourth and strongest storm to hit the Philippines this year – whipped the coast with wind gusts of up to 220 kilometers (137 miles) per hour.
18 months after Super Typhoon Haiyan devastated the central Philippines, churning up tsunami-like waves and leaving more than 7,350 people dead or missing, authorities credited the greater awareness with saving lives.
“People listened to our warnings. They’ve learned their lesson from past storms,” Norma Talosig, director of the Office of Civil Defense in Region II, told Agence France-Presse.
The two confirmed deaths were a 70-year-old man and his 45-year-old son who died after being electrocuted while fixing their house in Aparri town early Sunday, May 10, as Typhoon Dodong started to bear down.
The evacuations had begun on Friday, May 8, with more than 3,000 people leaving coastal fishing communities in Isabela and Cagayan province, and hundreds more from villages near the slopes of Bulusan volcano in the central region.
Authorities had feared heavy rains could trigger volcanic mud flows after the volcano started belching ash earlier this month.
And with civil defense authorities warning of dangerous storm surges of up to two meters (6.5 feet), coastal residents were taken inland in buses and truck, even ambulances.
Most of the evacuees started to return home Sunday night, local authorities said.
In the coastal town of Santa Ana strong winds broke power lines and peeled off palm thatch roofs, but there were no casualties reported after residents fled exposed areas, including 700 holdouts who finally abandoned their seaside huts as winds began to blow violently on Sunday.
“We went around town telling people that it was best to evacuate ahead,” police officer Melvic de Castro told Agence France-Presse.
At least 5 towns in the area remain without power, the National Grid Corporation said.
Typhoon Dodong is now headed northeast towards Japan, and on Monday was skirting the east coast of Taiwan.
Some 1,000 tourists were evacuated from Taiwan’s scenic Green island in the southeast in anticipation of the storm, and all flights and ferries were suspended to that island and nearby Orchid Island, another tourist hotspot.
Meanwhile, another storm is brewing in the Pacific Ocean that could threaten the Philippines early next week, state weather forecaster Aldczar Aurelio told Agence France-Presse.
The Philippines is battered by an average of 20 storms per year, many of them deadly. – Joel Guinto, AFP / Rappler.com