, MANILA, Aug 12 – Twenty three people were missing as Typhoon Utor swept across the northern Philippines on Monday, ripping roofs off houses, tearing down power lines and triggering landslides in remote villages.
With wind gusts of 200 kilometres (124 miles) an hour, Utor was the most powerful storm to strike the Philippines this year and authorities were on alert for worst case scenarios.
“This has the strongest sustained winds for the year,” government weather forecaster Samuel Duran told AFP.
Hundreds of people die each year in the Philippines from the roughly 20 typhoons that strike the country annually.
There were no immediate reports of casualties from Utor on Monday morning, but the national disaster agency said it was concerned for 23 missing fishermen.
“They went out to sea before we declared that a storm was approaching,” said National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council spokesman Reynaldo Balido.
“We are still hoping that within the day, they will return home. The practice in those areas is if a storm is approaching, they seek refuge somewhere.”
There were also concerns for remote towns and villages that had been isolated by the storm, with telecommunications networks to the areas out of order and roads cut off by landslides.
After building strength in the Pacific Ocean, Utor hit the northern regions of the main island of Luzon at 3:00 am on Monday (1900 GMT on Sunday).
Television footage from Aurora province, along the east coast of Luzon where Utor made landfall, showed uprooted trees that had fallen on top of houses, while roofs were ripped off some buildings.