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7 dead as ‘Lawin’ slams into Luzon

VIGAN CITY, Ilocos Sur – At least seven people were killed after super typhoon “Lawin” (international name “Haima”) smashed into Northern Luzon with ferocious winds and rains overnight, flooding towns and forcing thousands to flee before weakening and blowing into the South China Sea yesterday, officials said.

Lawin’s blinding winds and rain rekindled fears and memories from the catastrophe wrought by another super typhoon, “Yolanda” (international name “Haiyan”), in 2013, but there were no immediate reports of any major damage amid faulty communications and power outages in several barangays cut off from government aid and rescue teams by fallen trees, landslides, and floods.

Nearly 100,000 villagers were evacuated from high-risk communities as the typhoon approached, helping prevent a larger number of casualties.

Two construction workers died, however, when a landslide buried their shanty in La Trinidad, Benguet, officials said, while two persons drowned in floodwaters and another is missing in Ifugao.

A 70-year-old man died apparently of a heart attack while being brought to an emergency shelter from a flooded neighborhood in Isabela, officials said.

Another one also died in Cagayan Valley and one in Ilocos region due to Lawin.

Undersecretary Ricardo B. Jalad, National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council Executive Director and Office of Civil Defense Administrator, said they are now validating the information.

After making landfall over Sta. Ana, Cagayan at around 11 p.m. Wednesday, Lawin gradually weakened upon interaction with the mountains of the Sierra Madre and Cordillera.

Less than 24 hours after its landfall, Lawin’s winds dropped from its peak strength of 225 kilometers per hour maximum sustained winds and gustiness of up to 315 kph to 150 kph maximum sustained winds and gustiness of up to 185 kph before Thursday noon.

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration lifted tropical cyclone warnings over some areas in Luzon while lower signals remain hoisted over other Northern Luzon provinces.

Signal No. 2 was still up over Ilocos Norte, Apayao, Abra, Ilocos Sur, and Calayan Group of Islands. Signal No. 1 remained over Batanes Group of Islands, Cagayan, Kalinga, Isabela, Quirino, northern Aurora, Mountain Province, Ifugao, Nueva Vizcaya, Benguet, La Union, Pangasinan, and northern Zambales.

PAGASA weather forecaster Aldczar Aurelio said Lawin will continue to weaken while on its way outside the country’s area of responsibility and will be outside the Philippines by Thursday evening.

As of noon yesterday, Lawin was 160 kilometers west-northwest of Laoag City, Ilocos Norte, moving west-northwest at 21 kph. (AP and Ellalyn B. de Vera)