Typhoon Babs slams Philippines, heads for Hong Kong
Web posted at: 3:32 a.m. EDT (0332 GMT)
LEGAZPI, Philippines (CNN) - A mudslide triggered by heavy rain killed 38 Philippine villagers, bringing the death toll from Typhoon Babs nationwide to at least 52, disaster officials said on Friday.
Mud swept down a mountain and covered village houses in Catanduanes province in the central Philippines on Thursday, local officials said. Only six bodies had been recovered so far.
At least 14 people have drowned or died from hypothermia or in traffic accidents as Babs carved a destructive path through the central Philippines, a rich agricultural area and economic mainstay for this tropical archipelago of more than 7,000 islands.
The typhoon is the second to hit the Philippines in a week, and the ninth so far this year.
Babs veered away from a direct hit upon Manila late last night. But the sprawling city of 10 million people was being buffeted by heavy rain and wind with flooding reported in low-lying areas and some places chest-deep in water.
Schools and government offices in the capital were closed on Friday. Several international flights into Manila were cancelled or delayed Friday as officials waited for the weather to clear.
Damage to crops
Many bamboo homes have been destroyed as thousands of people are forced to head for higher ground in the wake of floods and mudslides. Philippine President Joseph Estrada Friday urged slum dwellers in Manila to seek higher ground and declared three provinces under a state of calamity.
Disaster officials issued a very preliminary damage estimate of 1.34 billion pesos ($32 million) to both crops and infrastructure, but damage details were scarce with government offices closed in Manila.
Officials said they were still assessing damage to coconut plantations in Bicol, one of the major coconut growing areas in the country.
The storm slowed after crossing mountains in Quezon province in the southeast of Luzon, the Philippine weather bureau said.
The typhoon's force dropped on Friday with wind gusts falling to 120 km per hour (75 mph) near the center compared to gusts of up to 200 kph (125 mph) on Thursday, the weather bureau said in an advisory.
At 10 a.m. (0200 GMT) on Friday, Babs was 25 km (15 miles) west of Lingayen town in Pangasinan, 200 km (120 miles) away from Manila.
Headed for Hong Kong
Meanwhile, Babs is marching towards the South China Sea and Hong Kong, a Philippine weather advisory said on Friday.
"It is expected to intensify over the water," the advisory said.
The eye of the storm was moving north northwest across the main Philippine island of Luzon at 13 km per hour and was expected to reach the South China Sea, southeast of Hong Kong, by Saturday morning, the advisory said.
The storm lost some steam overnight, with gusts falling to 120 km per hour near the center from 200 kph (125 mph). But the typhoon is maintaining its strength at these levels.
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