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Powerful Typhoon Hits Philippines; One Man Drowns

Supertyphoon Megi made landfall in the Philippines, dumping heavy rain and uprooting trees on the nation’s most populous island of Luzon. One man drowned after authorities declared an emergency state of calamity.

The storm swept ashore near Divilacan Bay, southeast of Tuguegarao, at 11:25 a.m. local time, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical & Astronomical Services Administration said. Megi had sustained winds of about 270 kilometers per hour (168 miles per hour) before the eye crossed the coast, the U.S. Navy Joint Typhoon Warning Center said.

Megi, known in the Philippines as Juan, is forecast to weaken and cross northern Luzon by early tomorrow before heading into the South China Sea on a track toward southern China. On the five-step Saffir-Simpson wind-intensity scale, Megi had been rated Category 5, capable of catastrophic damage.

The government, criticized for its response last year when Tropical Storm Ketsana left about 460 people dead and flooded Manila, is “better prepared now,” Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa said today. “Everybody is conscious about their jobs.”

The body of Vicente Decena, a 53-year-old candidate in next week’s village council elections who had been missing in Cagayan, was found today by authorities in a river. At least five were reported hurt as well during the storm.

One child was injured, according to the National Disaster Coordinating Council, two women were injured in a restaurant in Tuguegarao, said Lieutenant General Gaudencio Pangilinan, the military’s commander in Northern Luzon, and two Department of Public Works employees were hurt while clearing a highway, the agency said.

‘State of Calamity’

Isabela province, where Megi made landfall, was declared under a state of calamity, Office of Civil Defense Administrator Benito Ramos said at a briefing in Manila. A decision for Cagayan province immediately to the north may be delayed because some communication lines are down, he said.

Signal No. 4, the highest storm alert, was issued for the provinces of Isabela, Cagayan, Kalinga, Mountain and Ifugao, the weather agency said. Megi’s center was 50 kilometers south-southwest of Tuguegarao at 3 p.m., the weather bureau said.

The country may lose 600,000 metric tons of its rice crop, Agriculture Undersecretary Antonio Fleta said in a phone interview from Manila today. Half of the 157,000 hectares (388,000 acres) of land planted with rice in Cagayan and Isabela have yet to be harvested, he said. The Philippines is the world’s largest rice importer.

Flight Cancellations

Cebu Air Inc. cancelled eight flights, the Philippines’ largest budget airline said. Philippine Airlines cancelled flights to Laoag north of Manila, spokeswoman Cielo Villaluna said.

About 270 ferry passengers were stranded as vessels remained in port, the National Disaster Coordinating Council said. About 3,700 people were evacuated from their homes.

Megi may bring rains “similar” to Ketsana, Graciano Yumul, officer in charge of the weather bureau, said in Manila.

The Philippine agency said Megi’s winds weakened as it crossed land and were blowing at 190 kilometers per hour as the storm moved west-southwest at 17 kph. The storm may dump as much as 60 millimeters (2.4 inches) of rain per hour.

Preparing Medicines

Food packs and medicines were prepared in northern provinces, the National Disaster Coordinating Council said in an earlier advisory. Schools in affected areas were closed.

National Grid Corp. of the Philippines, which operates the country’s high-voltage transmission network, said it activated command centers at its main and regional offices to minimize the impact from the storm. Megi disrupted power supply in Cagayan and Isabela provinces, the disaster council’s advisory said.

Emergency services are on alert and ready to carry out evacuations, President Benigno Aquino said in a statement on his website. “We do not want to unduly alarm the public, but there is nothing lost by being prepared,” he said.

Storms in the northwest Pacific are designated as supertyphoons when their wind speed exceeds 241 kph, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Almost 5 million people were affected by floods as Ketsana swept across Luzon in September last year. Manila may escape last year’s levels of flooding as Megi passes to the north, Yumul said.

The Philippines is regularly battered by tropical cyclones that form in the Pacific Ocean east of the country. Typhoon Conson left 102 people dead in July and destroyed or damaged more than 70,000 homes, the disaster coordinating council said.

The storm is forecast to cross the South China Sea and may hit China’s south coast to the east of Hong Kong with winds of 185 kph, the U.S. Navy said. Megi will “severely” affect the coast, China’s National Meteorological Center said in a statement on its website today.

Megi, the name of a catfish in South Korea, is related to the feeling of getting wet, according to the Hong Kong Observatory, which lists names assigned to storms in the northwest Pacific. It is the 15th storm of the season.

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