Hundreds flee as storm hits southern Philippines
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Last Updated: Friday, December 16, 2011, 23:46
Manila: Hundreds of people fled their homes for higher ground on Friday as a tropical storm unleashed scattered floods in a usually cyclone-free area of the southern Philippines, officials said.

Some 300 people had to leave their homes as overnight heavy rains from tropical storm Washi caused flooding in Dipolog city on the island of Mindanao, civil defence office operations chief Edgar Ollet said.

"I hope we will avoid casualties. This area is rarely hit by typhoons, which means locals may not be as prepared, compared to the rest of the country," Ollet said.

Washi struck Mindanao's southeast coast at 2:30 pm (1200 IST) with winds gusting at 90 kilometres an hour, the state weather service said.

The storm was now moving west across the large island, weather forecaster Gilbert Aquino said.

Mindanao is a largely agricultural area that is considered the country's breadbasket.

"That area is rarely hit by typhoons," Aquino said, adding regional officials have been alerted to warn residents about the dangers of landslides and flash floods.

The Philippines endures about 20 major storms annually, with most hitting Luzon, the largest and most populous island in the Southeast Asian archipelago.

Two typhoons, Nesat and Nalgae, hit the country within days of each other from September 27, leaving more than 100 people dead, while tropical storm Banyan killed another eight people in October, by government count.


First Published: Friday, December 16, 2011, 23:46

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