SAN ILDEFONSO, Bulacan (4th UPDATE) — The strongest typhoon to hit the Philippines this year left at least six people dead, authorities said Monday, after heavy rain and fierce winds battered the country's most populous island.
Typhoon Karding (international name: Noru) toppled trees, knocked out power and flooded low-lying communities as it swept across Luzon on Sunday and Monday.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) also reported six people missing after the typhoon's onslaught, but said validation is ongoing.
The NDRRMC estimated Karding's agricultural damage to cost P141.38 million, with 740 farmers and 16,229 hectares of farmland affected.
Close to 79,000 people, or 20,380 families were evacuated from their homes before the storm hit, as the meteorology agency warned heavy rain could cause "serious flooding" in vulnerable areas, trigger landslides and destroy crops.
There have so far been no reports of widespread severe damage from the storm, which hit the country as a super typhoon.
"We were ready for all of this," President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. told a briefing with disaster agencies.
"You might think that we overdid it. There is no such thing as overkill when it comes to disasters."
Five rescuers were killed after they were sent to help flooded residents in San Miguel municipality in Bulacan province, near the capital Manila.
"They were deployed by the provincial government to a flooded area," said Lt. Col. Romualdo Andres, chief of police in San Miguel.
Andres said the rescuers were wading through floodwaters when a wall beside them collapsed, sending them into the fast current.
An elderly man also died after he was hit by a landslide in Burdeos municipality on the Polillo islands, part of Quezon province, where the storm first made landfall, said Garner Jimenez from the local civil defense office.
The Philippines is regularly ravaged by storms, with scientists warning they are becoming more powerful as the world gets warmer because of climate change.
Karding smashed into the archipelago nation on Sunday after an unprecedented "explosive intensification" in wind speeds, the state weather forecaster said earlier.
It made landfall about 100 kilometers northeast of the densely populated capital Manila, before weakening to a typhoon as it crossed a mountain range, coconut plantations and rice fields.
But on Monday there was no sign of the widespread devastation many had feared, as the storm moved over the South China Sea towards Vietnam.
Aerial footage taken during Marcos's inspection flight over central Luzon showed rivers that were swollen or had burst their banks, and patches of farmland under water.
'THE WIND WAS WHISTLING'
Burdeos town bore the brunt of Karding.
Ferocious winds ripped off some roofs and brought down large trees while heavy rain flooded riverside houses, said Ervin Calleja, a 49-year-old teacher.
"It was really worrisome," Calleja told AFP by phone.
"The wind was whistling and it had heavy rains. That's the more dangerous part."
Flimsy houses along the coast were damaged and some crops were wiped out.
"Here at the town center, all banana trees were flattened, 100 percent," said Liezel Calusin, a member of the civil defense team in Polillo municipality.
"We still have no electricity, but the phones are working."
In Banaba village near Manila, Terrence Reyes fled his riverside home with his family and neighbors as floodwaters rose during the storm.
They returned home Monday to find their belongings sodden and caked in mud.
"We just have to throw them away and start over again," Reyes, 25, said.
"It happens each time there is a storm here."
The Philippines -- ranked among the most vulnerable nations to the impacts of climate change -- is hit by an average of 20 storms every year.
© Agence France-Presse
— with report from Raffy Cabristante, ABS-CBN News