Tuguegarao, Sept 15 (AP/UNB) — Philippine officials were assessing damage and checking on possible casualties as Typhoon Mangkhut on Saturday pummeled the northern breadbasket with ferocious wind and rain that set off landslides, damaged an airport terminal and ripped off tin roofs.
There are no immediate deaths reported but Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said officials in northeastern Cagayan province, where the typhoon slammed ashore before dawn, were verifying the drownings of two children. Authorities were also checking what happened to about 70 men who reportedly returned to their coastal village to check on their homes during dangerous storm surges that saw walls of seawater whipped inland.
Mangkhut's sustained winds weakened to 170 kilometers (105 miles) per hour with gusts of up to 260 kph (161 mph) after it sliced across Luzon Island's flood-prone rice plains and mountain provinces toward the South China Sea, aiming at southern China and Hong Kong, where residents braced for the worst.
"It's still a life and death situation," Lorenzana said by telephone, citing past drownings in swollen rivers in mountain provinces.
Storm warnings remained hoisted in 10 northern provinces, including Cagayan, which could still be lashed by devastating winds, forecasters said. Tens of thousands of people on the typhoon's path had been evacuated.
At daybreak in Cagayan's capital, Tuguegarao, Associated Press journalists saw a severely damaged public market, its roof ripped apart and wooden stalls and tarpaulin canopies in disarray. Outside a popular shopping mall, debris was scattered everywhere and government workers clearing roads of fallen trees.
Many stores and houses were damaged but most residents remained indoors as occasional gusts sent small pieces of tin sheets and other debris flying dangerously.
Tuguegarao airport terminal was badly damaged, its roof and glass windows shattered by strong wind, which also sent chairs, tables and papers flipping about inside, Lorenzana said.
The typhoon struck at the start of the rice and corn harvesting season in Cagayan, a major agricultural producer, prompting farmers to scramble to save what they could of their crops, Cagayan Gov. Manuel Mamba said.
A government damage assessment was underway except in areas still being battered by wind and rain. Two air force C-130 cargo planes and 10 helicopters were on standby in Manila to help transport rescuers and aid supplies.
More than 5 million people were at risk from the storm, which the Hawaii-based Joint Typhoon Warning Center downgraded from a super typhoon but one that's still punching powerful winds and gusts equivalent to a category 4 Atlantic hurricane.
In Hong Kong, Security Minister John Lee Ka-chiu urged residents to prepare for the worst as Mangkhut barreled toward the southern Chinese city.
Cathay Pacific said all flights will be canceled between 2:30 a.m. local time on Sunday and 4 a.m. Monday.
"Because Mangkhut will bring winds and rains of extraordinary speeds, scope and severity, our preparation and response efforts will be greater than in the past," Lee told a briefing on Friday. "Each department must have a sense of crisis, make a comprehensive assessment and plan, and prepare for the worst."
In nearby Fujian province, 51,000 people were evacuated from fishing boats and around 11,000 vessels returned to port on Saturday morning.
China's National Meteorological Center issued an alert saying Mangkhut would make landfall somewhere on the coast in Guangdong province on Sunday afternoon or night, packing strong winds and heavy rains.
Ferry services in the Qiongzhou Strait in southern China were halted on Saturday and helicopters and tugboats dispatched to Guangdong to transfer offshore workers to safety and warn ships about the typhoon, state-run Xinhua News Agency reported.
Mangkhut, the Thai word for mangosteen fruit, is the 15th storm this year to batter the Philippines, which is hit by about 20 a year and is considered one of the world's most disaster-prone countries.
Typhoon Haiyan left more than 7,300 people dead or missing, flattened villages, swept ships inland and displaced more than 5 million in the central Philippines in 2013.
Srinagar, Sept 14 (AP/UNB) — Police say a bus has fallen off a road into a deep gorge in the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir, killing 16 people and injuring 16 others.
Police officer Rajinder Gupta says the accident occurred Friday when the driver lost control of the speeding bus on a sharp bend in the Himalayan road.
Gupta said the injured have been recovered from the 3,280-foot (1,000-meter) -deep gorge, including 11 seriously hurt people who were taken by helicopter to a hospital.
The area is 217 kilometers (135 miles) southeast of Srinagar, the main city in the region.
Police figures show India has the world's deadliest roads, with more than 110,000 people killed each year. Driver fatigue and negligence, low-quality roads and poor vehicle maintenance are frequent causes of accidents.
Cairo, Sept 14 (AP/UNB) — An international aid group says a recent bout of fighting between Yemeni government forces backed by a Saudi-led coalition and Shiite rebels around Hodeida has effectively shut down the main artery linking the port city to the rest of the country.
Save the Children said late Thursday it is concerned about the welfare of 4.2 million children in Yemen on the brink of starvation.
Tamer Kirolos of Save the Children says "it's quite literally a matter of life and death" for the main road linking Hodeida to the capital Sanaa to remain open.
The latest offensive began last week following the failure of what was supposed to be renewed peace talks in Geneva.
Government forces first tried in June to retake Hodeida from the rebels, known as Houthis.
Dhaka, Sept 13 (UNB) - Conservative Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) on Thursday backed overwhelming calls in the European Parliament for the immediate release of journalists arrested in Myanmar while investigating the Rohingya crisis.
The resolution backed by MEPs condemned the arbitrary conviction of Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo after they were jailed for possessing police documents while reporting on the murder of 10 Rohingya men last year.
Conservative Foreign Affairs Spokesman Dr Charles Tannock MEP said this is another clear attempt by Myanmar to cover up their military's crimes against the Rohingya people, according to a message UNB received from the press office of Conservative MEPs.
Tannock said the country has not only denied access to journalists but the UN, aid organisations and human rights lawyers as well.
“Myanmar must immediate release Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, drop all charges against them and against any other reporters, human rights defenders or political prisoners who are fighting to expose human rights abuses and wrong doing in the country,” said the Spokesman.
“I am incredibly disappointed by Aung San Suu Kyi's defence of the conviction of the Reuter’s journalists but not surprised. Despite being awarded the EU’s human rights award and a Noble Peace Prize she remained silent while Myanmar's armed forces carry out atrocities,” Tannock added.
Conservative MEP Sajjad Karim, told the European Parliament that the EU must seriously consider ending its trade preferences with Myanmar as the country continues to ignore the world's calls for its violent campaign against the Rohingya people to stop.
“The recent UN report on the Rohingya crisis unveiled the true level of Myanmar's crimes against humanity. Their military is burning whole villages, raping women and murdering children. This is not a country the EU should do business with,” he said.
Lucknow, Sep 13 (AP/UNB) — Indian health authorities are rushing medical supplies to some north Indian towns and villages where at least 50 people have died from fever over the past two weeks.
Dr. Vineet Shukla, a top Uttar Pradesh state health official, says patients suffering from fever and bouts of shivering are crowding hospitals in the Rohilkhand region. One hospital had received more than 1,500 patients since Aug. 30.
He says the cause of these deaths was not immediately known.
More than 200 million people live in impoverished Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous state. Thousands of people suffer from encephalitis, malaria, typhoid and other mosquito-borne diseases each year during the summer monsoon.
Health authorities say that during a three-month period starting from the end of July last year, there were 47 fever-related deaths.