Philippines battered by year's strongest typhoon; nine missing
MANILA (Reuters) - The year's most powerful typhoon slammed into the Philippines on Monday, triggering landslides and floods, cutting power and communications and leaving 9 fishermen missing, weather and disaster officials said.
Typhoon Utor, packing winds of 140 km per hour (87 mph) near its centre and gusts of up to 170 km per hour, weakened slightly after hitting the country's north and is moving slowly west-northwest at 19 km per hour, the officials said.
The coastal town of Casiguran in Aurora province, 343 km northeast of the capital Manila, suffered the worst damage, after Utor set off landslides that blocked its only access road.
"Power was cut in the wee hours of the morning up to now, as well as communication lines in three towns in Aurora, Casiguran included," provincial governor Gerardo Noveras told ANC television, adding that the full extent of damage was still unknown.
Devastation ranged from uprooted trees, fallen lampposts and tangled power lines to several flattened houses, a television broadcast showed.
The typhoon, the 12th tropical cyclone this year, is expected to sweep through the northern Philippine provinces of Benguet and Ilocos Sur before exiting towards the South China Sea by Tuesday, disaster and weather officials said.
The national disaster agency said there were no reports of casualties so far but nine fishermen were missing from the southeastern coastal provinces of Camarines Norte and Catanduanes.
About 20 typhoons hit the Philippines every year, often causing death and destruction. A state of national calamity was declared last December after typhoon Bopha killed more than 700 people in the resource-rich south, but most storms make landfall further north.
(Reporting by Rosemarie Francisco; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)
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