World News

Death toll rises as storm Aere exits the Philippines

MANILA (Reuters) - The death toll from tropical storm Aere climbed to 15 people as emergency workers rushed to restore electricity and telephone services in the central Philippines, disaster officials said on Tuesday.

Aere, which caused minor damage to rice and corn farms in central Bicol region, weakened as it moved north towards southern Japan. By Thursday, Aere will be 130 km (80 miles) west southwest of the Japanese island of Okinawa.

“Tropical storm Aere is still expected to bring rains over the western section of Luzon,” said weather bureau official Elvie, warning people on the main island against flash floods, landslides and storm surges, particularly in coastal areas.

At least 10 people had previously been killed in drowning, landslides and electrocutions caused by the storm, now weakened though still packing gusts of up to 80 kph.

Winds toppled transmission lines, plunging wide areas of the coconut-producing region into darkness and cutting mobile phone services.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said the storm dumped rain on 10 central provinces with a population of about 170,000 before hitting land in Luzon’s northeastern mountains on Monday.

Based on initial estimates from the disaster agency, more than 7,200 hectares (17,800 acres - 27 square miles) of rice, corn and high-value crops valued at 118 million pesos ($2.7 million) were destroyed or damaged. Coconut plantations were largely spared.

Farm damage was minimal as 80 percent of farmlands in rice-producing areas on Luzon had been harvested before Aere inundated wide areas, the agency said.

An average of 20 typhoons hit the Philippines every year, causing death and destroying infrastructure, property and crops, and the intensity of the typhoons has grown stronger in recent years largely due to climate change. ($1 = 43 pesos)

Reporting by Manny Mogato; Editing by Ron Popeski