“This is the strongest tropical cyclone to make landfall in the Philippines this year,” Venus Valdemoro, a spokeswoman with the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration, said of Typhoon Utor, which was called Labuyo in the Philippines.
It smashed into the eastern coast of the island of Luzon at 3 a.m. Monday with sustained winds of 109 miles per hour. churned through the island and left Monday afternoon, weakening as it entered the South China Sea.
The Philippine Coast Guard reported that nine fishermen were missing in two separate episodes involving powerful storm-generated waves.
Schools canceled classes in Manila and surrounding areas, but the storm largely spared the capital. Ten domestic flights were canceled, and more than 1,000 sea passengers were delayed because of the storm, officials said.
Casiguran, a town of about 24,000 on the eastern coast of Luzon, was hit hardest by the storm. The town lost power and communication and was unreachable by either land or sea because of debris that blocked roads into the area and strong waves that deterred ships.
National disaster relief officials said Monday afternoon that the local authorities had estimated that 80 percent of the town’s infrastructure was damaged, including schools and scores of homes.
Other areas along Luzon’s eastern coast suffered significant damage and were also isolated because of limited communications and blocked roads, officials said. Local officials and rescue units were scrambling Monday afternoon to reach remote areas in need of supplies.
Photo By FLOYD WHALEY
As the storm moved across Luzon, it dumped heavy rain into the mountain city of Baguio, a popular tourist area, where dozens of residents were evacuated from vulnerable areas. A 22-year-old man was killed in the nearby province of Benguet because of a landslide, national disaster relief officials said.
In the northern province of Isabela, 67 families were evacuated from the vicinity of engorged waterways at risk of causing flash floods. The province suffered power failures, as did areas throughout Luzon.
The typhoon was the 12th tropical cyclone to strike the Philippines in 2013, according to Ms. Valdemoro. The country is in one of the world’s most cyclone-prone areas and is hit by about 20 powerful storms every year.
Last December, Typhoon Bopha devastated the southern Philippines, killing nearly 2,000 people and damaging more than 200,000 homes, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council of the Philippines.
The apparently low casualty count of the current storm is an early indicator that the country is making progress on its disaster-preparedness efforts, said Dr. Mahar Lagmay, a professor at the University of the Philippines who advises the government on disaster risk reduction.
“The low death toll is attributable to good forecasting and government warnings, as well as knowledge of people on what to do and putting into action that knowledge,” he said