Storm moves away from Philippines, leaves 17 dead

Tropical Storm Aere blew away from the northern Philippines on Tuesday, leaving at least 17 people dead but sparing vast agricultural regions where farmers welcomed the rain, officials said.

Disaster officials had feared the storm would barrel through provinces during planting season and set off flash floods and landslides. After slamming Catanduanes province Sunday, it began to weaken and just grazed the country's northeastern seaboard, bringing rain to farmlands scorched by the summer heat, officials said.

"It's a welcome relief for the farmers," regional disaster-response official Norma Talosig told The Associated Press by telephone from northern Cagayan province, where planting for rice, corn and peanuts has begun.

Still, disaster officials warned villagers to stay away from mountainous areas prone to landslides and from low-lying areas that could be swamped by flash floods, especially in the northernmost province of Batanes. Fishermen and ferry operators at the tip of northern Luzon island were advised to keep their boats ashore.

Government forecaster Raymund Ordinario said Aere was hurtling at sea about 62 miles (100 kilometers) east of Batanes on Tuesday and blowing toward southern Japan with sustained winds of 40 miles (65 kilometers) per hour and gusts of 50 mph (80 kph).

On Monday, officials in Taiwan cautioned residents in the eastern and southern parts of the island of possible torrential rains.

Aere caused 17 deaths in the Philippines, including three people who perished in a house buried by a landslide in Camarines Sur province. At least 10 people drowned, while other storm deaths were caused by electrocution, a truck crash and two health problems.

More than 50 flights were canceled or diverted. President Benigno Aquino III delayed his flight home from a summit in Indonesia by a day, to Monday, due to the weather.

Aere was the second tropical storm to batter the Philippines this year. About 20 typhoons and storms lash the country annually.