November 4, 1995 in Nation/World

Typhoon Batters Philippines Capital Rain Sends Avalanche Of Ash And Mud Down Mount Pinatubo

New York Times

With a fury not seen in a decade, a typhoon raged through the main Philippine island of Luzon on Friday, killing at least 65 people and destroying millions of dollars worth of crops and and property.

With winds of up to 130 miles an hour, the storm, designated Angela, cut a swath of destruction through much of Luzon, downing power lines, burying fields and homes and sending tons of ash down the slopes of the Mount Pinatubo volcano.

As many as 40,000 people were forced to flee their homes, crowding schoolhouses, churches and government buildings. The hardest hit were the provinces of southern Luzon and the teeming capital of Manila, which stood in the eye of the typhoon and was battered by violent winds that uprooted trees, tore down walls and ripped the roofs off houses.

The government’s Office of Civil Defense estimated the damage to crops at $8 million, and said that at least $22 million worth of bridges, buildings and roads had been destroyed.

Rivers and lakes overflowed in several provinces, flooding low-lying towns in up to 20 feet of water. Scores of fish pens were destroyed, as were thousands of acres of rice fields ready for harvest.

Much of Luzon, including Manila, remained in darkness Friday night as the typhoon headed into the South China Sea. Nearly a hundred power transmission lines were cut and officials said that it would take up to a week to restore power completely.

Public transport ground to a halt as fallen trees and debris made highways impassable. Domestic and international flights were canceled and ships remained in harbors as the typhoon churned the waters of Manila Bay and the South China Sea.

President Fidel Ramos, apparently sensitive to criticism that he is often abroad when disaster strikes, personally directed relief operations and inspected damage in Manila.

Although the damage was wide-spread, casualties were comparatively low, thanks to early warnings and the rapid response of local officials, who evacuated thousands of people to safer sites.

There were few casualties in central Luzon, which was battered in the last two months by storms that caused mud, rock and ash to flow down the slopes of Mount Pinatubo.

Since the volcano erupted in 1991, the central Luzon Province of Pampanga, some 35 miles north of Manila, has been devastated by annual avalanches of mud and volcanic debris triggered by rain and wind. Several towns have been buried by 20 feet of mud and ash.

Relief officials said Friday that Typhoon Angela caused mud flows 10 to 12 feet high through most of the day. But people in threatened areas in Pampanga had moved to safety by then.

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