At least 7 dead as Typhoon Goni batters the Philippines

MANILA: At least seven people were killed as Typhoon Goni pounded the Philippines yesterday, ripping off roofs, toppling power lines and causing flooding in the hardest-hit areas where hundreds of thousands have fled their homes.

The strongest typhoon of the year also triggered deadly landslides that buried a number of houses in the southern part of the most populous island of Luzon, officials said.

Goni was a "super typhoon" when it made landfall on Catanduanes island before dawn, packing maximum sustained wind speeds of 225kmh.

It was downgraded a few hours later as it swept across Luzon and reduced intensity as it headed towards the capital Manila, where the sprawling city of 12 million was bracing for strong winds in the evening.

At least seven people were killed in Albay province, Civil Defence said in a statement.

Several victims died in rain-induced landslides of volcanic ash that police said engulfed houses in two villages near the active Mayon volcano.

"We have recovered three bodies and are looking for three more," said Major Domingo Tapel, chief of police in Guinobatan town. The roofs of at least two evacuation centres were torn off by the wind, while floods inundated some villages.

In Manila, the airport was closed and residents were evacuated from low-lying slum areas at risk of being inundated by 7m-high storm surges.

"It's better to be safe," Mr Arman Atuel, 33, said as he sat with his wife in a vehicle taking people to shelters. - AFP