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Philippines hit by year's strongest typhoon; 13 missing

A boy sifts through floating garbage as he collects recyclable items to sell while strong waves crash along the shores of Manila Bay, near a
A boy sifts through floating garbage as he collects recyclable items to sell while strong waves crash along the shores of Manila Bay, near a

MANILA (Reuters) - The most powerful typhoon to hit the Philippines this year triggered landslides and floods on Monday, disrupting power and communication links to leave one man dead and 13 fishermen missing, weather and disaster officials said.

Typhoon Utor, packing winds of 150 km per hour (93 mph) near its center and gusts of up to 185 kmph, regained strength as it moved out of northern Luzon island towards the South China Sea, headed west-northwest at 19 kmph, the officials said.

The coastal town of Casiguran in Aurora province, 343 km northeast of the capital Manila, suffered the worst damage, after the typhoon set off landslides that blocked its only access road.

"About 90 percent of our agriculture was destroyed or damaged, particularly rice and corn crops and coconut plantations," Aurora governor Gerardo Noveras told ANC television, adding that the full extent of damage was still unknown.

"We have restored power and communications in some towns, and we're ready to deliver relief goods to affected families."

But Casiguran and another coastal town were still isolated, he said.

Television showed images of devastation ranging from uprooted trees and fallen lamp-posts to tangled power lines and flattened houses. Most mountain roads were blocked by boulders and loosened soil.

By Tuesday, the typhoon, the twelfth tropical cyclone this year, will have crossed Philippine borders and head for southern China, officials said.

The national disaster agency said a man clearing a clogged drain was killed when a landslide buried him in mountainous Benguet province, while 13 fishermen in the coastal provinces of Pangasinan and Camarines Sur were reported missing.

Police are also checking reports of three missing fishing boats, with 25 men aboard. But 9 fishermen earlier reported missing on the central island of Catanduanes have all been accounted for, disaster officials said.

Schools in the capital and most parts of Luzon were closed while two local carriers suspended 18 domestic flights. Sea travel halted and commuter buses were stalled.

About 20 typhoons hit the Philippines every year, often bringing death and destruction. A state of national calamity was declared last December after typhoon Bopha killed more than 700 people in the resource-rich south, but most storms make landfall further north.

(Reporting by Manuel Mogato, Rosemarie Francisco and Karen Lema; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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