Death Toll From Weekend Storm In Philippines Rises To 37, 16 Injured

Thursday, May 22nd 2008, 7:10 am
By: News On 6

MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ The death toll from a weekend tropical storm that battered the northern Philippines rose Wednesday to 37 while authorities worked to restore power and distribute drinking water in hard-hit areas.

Most of the victims were hit by iron sheeting or falling debris blown off houses after Tropical Storm Halong made landfall Saturday in Pangasinan province, northwest of Manila.

The National Disaster Coordinating Council said a total of 37 people died, 16 were injured and one was missing. The death toll previously had been 12, but there were delays in reporting casualties in remote areas.

The storm sliced through the mountainous region with peak winds of up to 75 mph, dumping rains and triggering floods. It left the Philippines on Monday.

About 1 million people were affected but only 1,300 were still sheltered in evacuation centers. More than 200,000 were receiving rice and other food supplies, the disaster agency said in a report.

Toppled trees and utility poles blocked some roads, and power was cut off in several towns in La Union province. Telecommunications also were down throughout Pangasinan, which bore the brunt of the storm, the agency said.

Elvira Calina, regional disaster coordinating council chief, said about 80 percent of Pangasinan was without electricity. She said officials were working on restoring power within two weeks.

Potable water was brought in from nearby provinces or was drawn by residents using manual pumps because the local water distribution company could not operate without power, she said.

Chief weather forecaster Nathaniel Cruz said Halong, which reached the strength of a typhoon when it hit Pangasinan, generated small tornadoes, which could partly account for the widespread damage.

Education Secretary Jesli Lapuz said 74 school buildings were damaged, including 43 in Pangasinan, less than two weeks before the start of the school year.

The storm was the first to hit the Philippines this year and heralded the start of the typhoon season. About 20 typhoons lash the archipelago annually.