Two people were killed by a strong typhoon near the central Philippines, officials said Monday, as residents huddled in shelters and landslides buried homes as the storm made landfall over the weekend.
There were no immediate reports of deaths or injuries from the storm, known locally as Nina, that battered the north and central parts of the Philippines, but it left heavy rains and strong winds that eroded hillsides and unleashed flash floods.
The Philippine disaster agency said that the storms evacuees got very wet and had to use their bare hands and chairs to dig out people who were trapped amid landslides and massive river overflows.
The storm was tracking west-northwest in the northern Luzon Island and in mountainous Batanes region on Bonao island and was expected to blow away on Tuesday morning.
Nina, which weakened slightly to a tropical storm by the time it crossed the capital, Manila, was moving at about 30 kilometers (19 miles) per hour and producing wind gusts of up to 104 kph (65 mph).
Officials rushed to move thousands of families who were sent from their homes because of the storm to shelters, municipal offices and university classrooms. Schools closed.
It was the worst typhoon to hit the area since September, when Typhoon Bopha killed 42 people, destroyed hundreds of homes and caused temporary closures of a world fair and two major international rugby tournaments.
Tacloban, Leyte’s largest city and capital of the eastern coastal province of Leyte, was the worst hit, with floods submerging houses and markets in its seaside business districts.
Communications were disrupted, but the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said a police officer died in Batanes when a bridge he was riding fell over a river, while a fisherman in Batanes died of injuries from the storm.
Authorities in Batanes evacuated thousands of people from mountain slopes, hamlets and coastal areas.
“It’s really tough to fight this,” said Cruz Archprieto, who, along with thousands of others in the northern city of Iloilo, had to evacuate.
One student had to ride in a rubber boat through a fast-flowing river on a nearby island.
“It was scary. We even saw a large eel going into the river,” said student Felix Bascupangan, 14.
President Rodrigo Duterte appealed to Filipinos not to panic, saying the region was better prepared to withstand damage from the fast-moving storms.
“Those old buildings with concrete walls can take very strong winds,” Duterte said. “We should not be discouraged because of the past experience. Please just be calm.”
Associated Press writers Bullit Marquez in Manila and Jim Gomez in Manila contributed to this report.