Typhoon Haima churns toward China after lashing Philippines
BEIJING – Typhoon Haima churned toward southern China on Friday after smashing into the northern Philippines with ferocious wind and rain, triggering flooding, landslides and power outages and killing seven people.
China suspended rail services in several provinces on the mainland's south, where the typhoon is expected to make landfall in the afternoon. In the city of Shenzhen, authorities ordered schools, markets and factories to close, halted public transportation and evacuated some areas.
Hong Kong hunkered down as Haima lashed the financial hub with rain and wind gusts of up to 96 kilometers (60 miles) an hour. Schools and offices were shut and trading on the stock market suspended after the third most serious storm signal was hoisted, leaving an eerie calm in the streets of the normally bustling city. Nearly 700 flights to and from the city's international airport were canceled or delayed. By late morning, the storm was about 130 kilometers (80 miles) east of the city.
In the Philippines, Haima's blinding winds and rain had rekindled fears of the catastrophe wrought by Typhoon Haiyan in 2013, which left 7,300 dead, but there were no immediate reports of any major damage. Large casualties appeared to have been averted after nearly 100,000 people fled to safer ground. Several villages were cut off by fallen trees, landslides and floods, impeding communications and aid.
Although storms are a part of life in the country's north, many villagers were still horrified by Haima's fury.
"In my age, I'm 60 years old, this is the strongest typhoon I have ever seen," village Councilor Willie Cabalteja told The Associated Press in Vigan city in Ilocos Sur province. "We haven't slept. Trees were forced down, houses lost their roofs and fences and metal sheets were flying around all night."
At least seven people were killed in the storm, officials said. But the evacuations from high-risk communities helped prevent a larger number of casualties.
The extent of damage in Cagayan, about 500 kilometers (310 miles) north of Manila, where the typhoon made landfall, was evident in overturned vans, toppled or leaning electric posts and debris blocking roads. Most stores, their window panes shattered and canopies shredded by the wind, were closed.
In northern Ilocos Sur province, rice fields resembled brown lakes under waist-high floodwaters, although cleanup operations had started.
The region is still recovering from a typhoon last weekend that killed two people and displaced tens of thousands of villagers.
President Rodrigo Duterte, on a state visit to China, urged people to heed orders by disaster agencies. Duterte is to fly home Friday.
Associated Press writers Jim Gomez in Manila, Philippines, and Kelvin Chan in Hong Kong contributed to this report.