(Updates with typhoon position, new storm)
By Rosemarie Francisco
MANILA, Sept 27 Typhoon Nesat crossed the
Philippines' main island late on Tuesday, leaving behind at
least seven dead after it lashed crop-growing provinces and
brought the capital to a near standstill as it flooded roads and
villages and cut power supplies.
Among the dead following the typhoon was a 22-month-old boy,
and four others were missing, the disaster agency said.
Crop damage in the northern Cagayan Valley area may begin to
be assessed on Wednesday, when government offices and financial
markets in the capital are set to reopen.
As Nesat cleared Luzon island's west coast and headed
towards northern Vietnam, weather officials said a tropical
depression was forming in the Pacific Ocean that could affect
northern Luzon over the weekend.
Nesat was a category 3 typhoon with winds of around 200 km
per hour (125 mph) when it hit the northern provinces of Luzon
island just before dawn on Tuesday, and then lost strength as it
moved across Luzon, Tropical Storm Risk said.
"We cannot give any estimate of damage at the moment because
the typhoon is still battering many provinces," said Benito
Ramos, head of the national disaster agency.
Large portions of the capital Manila, a city of 13 million,
were without power for much of Tuesday. Officials shut some rail
networks as a precaution after high winds cut power lines and
toppled electric posts.
Government offices, the central bank and schools were also
closed on Tuesday.
Strong winds uprooted trees and tore off some billboards
along major roads. Debris blocked roads in the capital and
provinces, and officials warned of the risk of landslides from
heavy rains in mountainous regions.
The waters of Manila Bay overflowed onto Roxas
Boulevard, flooding streets and parks around the U.S. embassy,
central bank and finance department, with the water waist deep
in parts. A radio report said the upmarket Sofitel hotel in the
area was partly flooded, with buses brought in to move guests.
Manila residents in low-lying areas waded through floods to
seek higher ground and evacuation centers. Winds tore the tin
roof from a gymnasium used as an evacuation centre in the poor,
crowded Tondo district in the capital, sending evacuees
scampering for new shelter.
Residents were also evacuated as the Marikina River in metro
Manila rose to 18 metres, and water was being released from dams
near the capital as they neared overflowing levels.
"The waters are swelling more and more. Since it started
raining yesterday, the floods just went up higher and higher.
It's not subsiding," said school official Evelyn de Guzman, who
was working at an evacuation centre near the river.
Nesat, with a diameter of 650 km, dumped heavy rains on rice
and corn growing regions in central Luzon, with nearly all of
the provinces on the main island under a typhoon alert.
The weather bureau said the typhoon, known locally as
Pedring, was dropping 15-25 mm of rain an hour.
Faustino Dy, governor of Isabela province where Nesat made
landfall, told national radio that 15 to 20 percent of rice
crops in the province may be damaged by the typhoon.
The Department of Agriculture said it may be able give a
preliminary assessment of crop damage on Wednesday.
The Cagayan Valley region, which includes Isabela, was
projected to account for 8.4 percent of the national third
quarter rice crop and 10.5 percent of fourth quarter output.
On Monday, authorities ordered the evacuation of more than
100,000 people in central provinces, warning Nesat could cause
landslides, flash floods and storm surges in coastal areas.
Nesat hit two years after typhoon Ketsana dumped heavy rains
in the capital and nearby provinces, submerging large parts of
Manila and killing hundreds.
($1 = 43.9 Philippine Pesos)
(Additional reporting by Pedro Uchi and Erik dela Cruz; Editing
by John Mair and Sugita Katyal)