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Death toll rises to 20 in Christmas Day typhoon in Philippines

With communications down, it’s not yet possible to assess the full extent of the damage.

A boat damaged by the typhoon in Ormoc City, central Philippines.
A boat damaged by the typhoon in Ormoc City, central Philippines.
Image: AP/Press Association Images

Updated Dec 26th 2019, 6:16 PM

A TYPHOON THAT swept across remote villages and popular tourist areas of the central Philippines on Christmas Day has left at least 20 dead.

Typhoon Phanfone, with winds of 195 kilometres an hour, tore roofs off houses and toppled electric posts as it cut across the Philippines on Christmas Day.

With the internet and mobile phone networks still cut off in some badly damaged areas, a full assessment of Phanfone’s damage was not immediately possible this morning.

But at least 20 people had been confirmed killed in villages and towns in the Visayas, the central third of the Philippines, according to disaster agency officials.

Most of the deaths reported by officials were due to drowning, falling trees and accidental electrocution.

philippines-typhoon A man checks his home after the typhoon. Source: AP/PA Images

Phanfone also hit Boracay, Coron and other holiday destinations popular with foreign tourists.

The airport at Kalibo, which services Boracay, was badly damaged, according to a Korean tourist who was stranded there and provided images to AFP.

“Roads remain blocked, but some efforts have been made to clear away the damage. It’s pretty bad,” Jung Byung Joon said via Instagram messenger.

“Everything within 100 metres of the airport looks broken. There are a lot of frustrated people at the airport as flights have been cancelled.

Taxis are still running but it’s windy and still raining so no one wants to leave the airport, including me.

Though much weaker, Phanfone tracked a similar path as Super Typhoon Haiyan — the country’s deadliest storm on record which left more than 7,300 people dead or missing in 2013.

“It’s like the younger sibling of Haiyan. It’s less destructive, but it followed a similar path,” Cindy Ferrer, an information officer at the Western Visayas region’s disaster officer, told AFP.

Tens of thousands of people in the mostly Catholic nation had been forced to evacuate their homes, ruining Christmas Day celebrations.

Many others were not able to return to their families, with ferries and plane services suspended.

Among those killed Phanfone was a police officer who was electrocuted by a toppled electric post while patrolling.

One disaster response officer described the battered coastal town of Batad in Iloilo province as a “ghost town” on Christmas Day.

“You can’t see anybody because there was a total blackout, you can’t hear anything. The town looked like a ghost town,” said Cindy Ferrer, of the regional Office of the Civil Defence.

The Philippines is the first major landmass facing the Pacific typhoon belt, and is hit by an average of about 20 major storms a year.

Many of the storms are deadly, and they typically wipe out harvests, homes and infrastructure, keeping millions of people perennially poor.

© – AFP, 2019 with reporting from Press Association.

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