Typhoon Phanfone kills 24 in central Philippines

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AT LEAST 24 people died and almost a hundred were injured after Typhoon Phanfone battered central Philippines on Christmas Day, police said on Thursday.

The typhoon, locally named Ursula, left hundreds of residents homeless and damaged buildings, according to the local disaster agency.

Six others went missing, while 569 families or 2,351 people in 38 villages were affected by the storm, the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council said in a 6 a.m. report on Thursday.

Ursula, the 21st typhoon to hit the country this year, has weakened as it moved toward the South China Sea, the local weather bureau said in a report.

Storm signals over the Visayas region had been lifted as of Thursday morning, but light to moderate with intermittent heavy rains were still expected over the northern portion of Palawan province, Central Luzon, some parts of Southern Luzon and Metro Manila, it said.

The storm was expected to leave the Philippines on Saturday morning.

More than 400 families were staying at evacuation centers. Almost 16,000 passengers, 1,372 rolling cargoes, 41 vessels and 26 motorboats were stranded, while 115 domestic flights were canceled.

Some airports in the Visayas region were damaged but continued operations, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines said in a statement.

Kalibo International Airport was heavily damaged but will resume domestic operations at 5 p.m. The domestic arrival and check-in areas of its passenger terminal buildings could still be used while the rehabilitated international terminal will be used temporarily as a domestic pre-departure area.

International airport operations were suspended until Dec. 27 in the morning as authorities clear and restore terminal buildings.

Roxas Airport in Capiz was fully operating but communications were downgraded to advisory service from the usual aerodrome control tower communications, the aviation regulator said.

Meanwhile, the San Jose Airport in Occidental Mindoro was undergoing clearing operations and will resume operations on Dec. 28 after sustaining 30% damage.

Tacloban Airport and Caticlan Airport were back in operation after clearing, while the Puerto Princesa International Airport and Iloilo International Airport sustained minimal damage and were operating normally, authorities said.

Meanwhile, six power transmission lines in the Visayas were out or order, leaving customers of electric cooperatives in some provinces without electricity.

The facilities are 69-kilovolt (kV) transmission lines that became unavailable either on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) said in a earlier report.

“There is also one 138-kV line remaining, which tripped due to the passage of the typhoon, affecting transmission services in the entire province of Aklan,” the grid system operator said.

“Inspection and restoration of lines in the affected areas will be in full swing as soon as the weather allows,” it added.

NGCP identified the 69-kV lines that were unavailable as Panitan-Sara/Panitan-Sapian, Nabas-Sapian, Nabas-Caticlan, Borongan-Quinapondan, Ormoc-San Isidro and Babatngon-Apitong-Arado.

Typhoon Ursula hit the Visayas weeks after Typhoon Kammuri devastated southern Luzon and some areas in Samar. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas and Victor V. Saulon with Emmanuel Tupas, Philippine Star