'Gener' hits Taiwan, leaves 23 dead in PH
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) - Typhoon Gener (international codename Saola) has made landfall over Taiwan early Thursday, August 2, leaving 23 people dead in the Philippines, as it continues to affect the Southwest Monsoon bringing rain to Luzon and Western Visayas.
The slow-moving typhoon made landfall near the eastern coast city of Hualien at 3:20 am, according to Taiwan's Central Weather Bureau.
In its 11 am bulletin, state weather bureau Pagasa said Gener has weakened slightly as it hit the eastern mountains of Taiwan, after making landfall on the island early Thursday.
Pagasa said Gener was last spotted 370 kilometers north northwest of Basco Batanes, carrying maximum sustained winds of 120 km per hour near the center and gusts of up to 150 km/h.
It is moving north northwest at 11 km/h, and is expected to be 590 km north northwest of Basco by Friday morning, or outside the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR).
Only Batanes, under public storm warning signal number 1, remains under a storm signal. Signals elsewhere in the country have been lowered.
Due to its effect on the Southwest Monsoon, Luzon and Western Visayas will still experience rain and moderate to strong winds, and residents near mountainsides and low lying areas could still experience landslides and flashfloods.
Estimated rainfall amount within the 600 km diameter of the typhoon is still heavy, between 10-15 millimeters per hour.
Warning for small seacraft venturing out to sea is still in effect over Luzon and Visayas.
The rest of the Philippines will have partly cloudy to cloudy skies with isolated rain and thunderstorms.
Moderate to strong winds will come from the southwest, and coastal waters will be moderate to rough, Pagasa said.
The typhoon and the enhanced monsoon has left 23 people dead in its wake, the National Disaster Risk Reduction & Management Council (NDRRMC), said in its latest report.
In its report issued 7 am Thursday, 21 people are injured and 125 others have been rescued. A total of 331,588 people have been affected across 13 regions, with 179,990 of them directly being assisted by the NDRRMC.
Twenty-nine roads and 3 bridges have also been damaged by the typhoon, while agricultural damage has been pegged at P 2.13 million in 3 regions.
A total of 2,614 houses have been damaged, 580 of these totally damaged.
Towns in Central Luzon as well as heavily populated coastal areas remained under waist deep floods, with television footage showing residents wading in muddy waters as they tried to seek safer shelters.
Health officials meanwhile raised the alarm over a possible outbreak of leptospirosis, a bacterial disease spread by infected rat urine in flood waters, saying this could lead to a further spike in the death toll.
"We are appealing for help from the national government. Our town hall itself is submerged in waist deep water," said Obando mayor Orencio Gabriel on government radio as intermittent rains continued to pound many areas. "We are all under water here," he said.
But high sea tides on Thursday morning worsened the flooding by slowing down the flow of water into the bay.
"People are living in dire situations in evacuation centers and disease outbreaks are what could push the toll even higher," warned Carmencita Banatin of the Department of Health's emergency management unit.
"We have rushed medicines and doctors to evacuation centers to begin immunizing and stave off any explosion of diseases," she told AFP.
Gener had caused tidal surges that swept over seawalls and flooded huge parts of Manila Wednesday, forcing schools to call off classes and flights to be grounded.
Banatin said said health workers were expecting an outbreak of leptospirosis which has an incubation of about a week.
The worst outbreak of the disease occurred in Manila in 2009, when a major storm submerged more than 80 percent of the city of 15 million.
Of the more than 3,300 cases of leptospirosis cases recorded then, 249 died, making it the biggest casualty figure for the disease in the world so far, according to government and World Health Organization figures.
Preps vs 'Saola'
Prior to landfall over the island, Taiwan on Wednesday, shut down schools and cancelled flights as it braced for the approaching typhoon. It has caused nearly the entire island to close down, and is forecast to bring torrential rains that could linger until next week, officials said.
Amid warnings of heavy rain to come, authorities evacuated nearly 600 residents from New Taipei City in the north and as many from the eastern counties of Ilan and Hualien, which look set to bear the brunt of the typhoon.
Schools and offices in the two counties were also closed, while 34 international and 21 domestic flights were cancelled, according to the Central Emergency Operation Centre.
All shipping services to and from the offshore islands were suspended.
Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific Airways said that its Taipei flight operations were suspended from 1000 GMT until at least noon on Thursday.
In the capital nearly 100,000 sandbags prepared by the government were snapped up as the Central Weather Bureau called on residents to take special precautions against torrential rain and flooding.
The bureau warned the typhoon may bring 1.5 meters of rain, prompting the defense ministry to order more than 46,000 soldiers to stand by islandwide. The slow-moving typhoon has ditched 0.5 meters of rain in the east and north during the past day, triggering landslides that cut off roads.
About 30,000 households were without electricity for several hours, but by 9:30 am, power had been restored to all but 5,000 homes, Taiwan's Central News Agency reported.
Financial markets were closed because of the typhoon.
The bureau said the typhoon would continue to have an impact into the weekend, and that winds following in its wake could cause heavy rainfall in the island's south next week. - Rappler.com, with reports from Agence France-Presse