Death toll at least 67 as Typhoon Conson slams into China

In Asia, Floods & Storms, News Headlines

Typhoon Conson weakened to a tropical storm and headed for Vietnam Saturday after brushing the southeastern Chinese island of Hainan and pounding the Philippines, leaving at least 67 dead.

Philippine authorities warned the toll could rise further with dozens missing days after Conson struck the main Luzon island, including the capital Manila, on Tuesday with a ferocity that caught weather forecasters by surprise.

The typhoon destroyed thousands of homes, sank or damaged dozens of boats, uprooted trees that crushed people to death and snapped power lines.

In China the storm killed at least two people, tore down trees and ripped up electricity pylons when it hit Hainan Friday evening, local officials said. Authorities on the popular tourist island evacuated around 40,000 people from the most vulnerable areas before the storm barrelled inland.

Two men, a security guard and a motorcyclist, died after being struck by advertising hoardings unhinged by strong winds, an official from the local typhoon warning centre said.

Television images showed driving rain and powerful winds rocking the island, while residents also reported power outages.

Several Vietnamese ships in the South China Sea had been wrecked, the state Xinhua news agency said.

The typhoon was later downgraded to a tropical storm as it headed towards northern Vietnam, according to China’s national weather centre.

The China Meteorological Administration said the winds had slowed to around 20 kilometres (12 miles) per hour, but that coastal areas of eastern China could still expect heavy rain over the next 24 hours.

Earlier Conson became the first major storm to hit the Philippines this year and the archipelago nation bore the brunt of its fury, with the death toll there rising sharply to 65 Saturday.

Philippine air force helicopters and navy aircraft were still combing the seas southeast of Manila for around 43 missing fishermen and other sailors.

Three fishermen were plucked by passing colleagues from waters off the Bicol region, after Conson destroyed their boat on Tuesday, an army statement quoted survivor Victor Bordeos as saying.

“Our boat capsized and (was) torn in half during the height of the storm,” Bordeos said.

The government’s National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) on Saturday raised the death toll to 65 from 39 as the coast guard and other rescuers found more bodies at sea at the mouth of Manila Bay and off Bicol.

It put the number of overall missing at 87.

By Saturday morning the coast guard said it was still struggling to contain two oil spills caused by wrecked watercraft, one of which severed an underwater oil pipe of a local refiner at the mouth of Manila Bay.

It had earlier taken utility firms more than two days to restore electricity to the near-paralysed capital Manila.

Meanwhile, the NDCC on Saturday alerted Luzon residents of a weather front off the island’s east coast that it said could develop into a stronger storm.

The Philippines is in the so-called typhoon belt of the Pacific. Up to 20 typhoons sweep through the country each year, killing hundreds of people.

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