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Tropical storm kills nine, displaces thousands in Philippines

Updated:

MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ Tropical storm Xangsane pounded the main northern Philippine island of Luzon on Saturday after battering the country's eastern provinces. At least nine people had died nationwide and 19 fishermen were missing, officials said.

More than 200 people were injured, many by collapsed walls and flying tin roofs and debris, officials said.

The storm, with sustained winds of 68 miles per hour and gusts of up to 86 mph, was blowing across Luzon's southern region and was expected to pass near congested metropolitan Manila on Sunday, forecasters said.

Philippine Airlines canceled flights to the affected eastern provinces, where the typhoon flooded several towns, set off a landslide and knocked out power, disaster officials said.

Several international flights were either canceled or delayed. A Japan Airlines flight to Manila was diverted to Taipei, airport officials said.

Ships and fishing boats were warned against venturing into typhoon-battered areas. Officials said they had launched a search for 19 fishermen aboard eight motor boats missing off Borlongan on the island of Samar.

More than 5,500 commuters and 200 buses, trucks and cars were stranded after authorities temporarily halted sea ferries to Samar and nearby areas.

The dead included a man and a woman who were electrocuted in Catanduanes province and two women, one of them pregnant, crushed by a fallen tree in Sorsogon province, said Christina Abat of the Office of Civil Defense. Two other deaths were reported in Sorsogon and Albay provinces.

A woman drowned in Quezon province, and a boy drowned when he was swept away by strong currents in Isabel in central Leyte province. In Manila, a woman was crushed to death by a collapsed wall in Makati city.

More than 8,000 people were forced from their homes in Samar and in nearby Albay, where local officials closely monitored possible mudslides near villages on the slopes of Mayon volcano, which erupted early this year.

About 20 typhoons and storms sweep through the Philippines annually.

The storm damage is expected to add to the Philippines' economic woes, caused partly by a growing scandal over allegations that President Joseph Estrada received large gambling payoffs from a provincial governor.

Despite heavy rains, a group of Estrada's supporters protested at the house of Philippine church leader Cardinal Jaime Sin in metropolitan Manila. Sin is among several prominent leaders who have demanded that Estrada step down.

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