MANILA (Updated 12:13 p.m.) -- The first typhoon to lash the country this year not only flooded streets in Metro Manila and toppled power lines Wednesday, but also left three people dead and 19 fishermen missing.
Typhoon Basyang (international codename: Conson) slammed into northeast Quezon province with winds of 120 kilometers per hour late Tuesday and weakened into a tropical storm as it crossed rice-growing Luzon Island and buffeted the sprawling capital with strong gusts and heavy rain for about two hours, said weather forecaster Bernie de Leon.
The storm blew out of Manila before dawn Wednesday, leaving downed branches, trees and scattered trash. Winds ripped tarpaulin billboards along the main roads and blew away roofs of coastal shanties.
Basyang also caused widespread blackouts and suspended flights, classes and work in some government offices.
It moved into the South China Sea Wednesday and was projected to make another landfall on the Chinese mainland west of Macau later this week.
Among the fatalities were a woman and her child who were hit by a falling tree in Cavite province, provincial spokesman Filomeno Maligaya told dzBB radio. He said another child drowned after falling into a raging river in Novelata town.
The National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) reported that some communities in Manila were flooded by knee-deep waters. Up to 3,100 people were stranded in ports waiting for the weather to clear.
The coast guard said search and rescue vessels were deployed off the island province of Catanduanes early Wednesday to search for 19 fishermen reported missing after the typhoon churned out big waves that overturned their boats.
Despite preparations by disaster relief agencies to avoid the repetition of last year's calamity when nearly 1,000 people were killed in typhoon-triggered floods in and around Manila, the President Benigno Aquino III scolded the weather bureau for failing to predict that the storm would hit the capital.
"I hope this is the last time we are all brought to areas different from where we should be," Aquino told officials during a meeting of the NDCC, noting that government agencies were relying on the weather bureau for their preparations.
Pagasa chief Prisco Nilo explained that it takes forecasters six hours to update weather bulletins in making predictions. The weather bureau has complained of lack of funding and equipment.
The Manila International Airport Authority said 63 flights, including four international, have been canceled and nine were diverted to the central Philippine international airport since late Tuesday.
Classes were suspended in grade and high schools and most universities in Manila. Several government offices, including the Senate, also suspended work due to the power outage. (AP/Sunnex)