Beyond the county: 11 dead in Philippine typhoon, Snakes on a bus |

Beyond the county: 11 dead in Philippine typhoon, Snakes on a bus

Typhoon leaves 11 dead, Filipino villagers saved from flood

CABANATUAN, Philippines — Army, police and civilian volunteers rushed Monday to rescue hundreds of villagers trapped in their flooded homes and on rooftops in a northern Philippine province battered by slow-moving Typhoon Koppu, officials said.

The typhoon blew ashore into northeastern Aurora province with fierce wind and heavy rains early Sunday, leaving at least 11 dead, forcing more than 65,000 villagers from their homes, and leaving nine provinces without electricity. The typhoon weakened once on land, and by Monday afternoon, Koppu had weakened into a tropical storm over Ilocos Norte province with winds of 105 kilometers (65 miles) per hour and gusts of up to 135 kph (84 mph).

Several of the affected provinces, led by Nueva Ecija, were inundated by flash floods that swelled rivers and cascaded down mountains, trapping villagers in their homes, said Nigel Lontoc of the Office of Civil Defense.

“There were people who got trapped by the flood on their roofs, some were rescued already,” Vice Mayor Henry Velarde of Nueva Ecija’s Jaen town told The Associated Press by telephone, adding that about 80 percent of 27 villages in his farming town of more than 45,000 people were inundated by flood.

When a major river flooded and swamped the villages, residents scrambled to safety but many failed to save their poultry and farm animals. Out of more than 5,000 ducks, for example, only about 1,000 were saved and many rice crops ready to be harvested in a few weeks turned into a muddy waste, he said.

“Our rice farms looked like it was ran over by a giant flat iron,” Velarde said. “All the rice stalks were flattened in one direction.”

Hundreds of soldiers, police and volunteers have converged on Nueva Ecija, a landlocked, rice-growing province in the heart of Luzon island, to help villagers whose homes had been flooded, said Lontoc.

Erwin Jacinto, a 37-year-old resident of Nueva Ecija’s Santa Rosa town, said the flooding turned his farmland into “nothing but mud.”

Jacinto spoke from atop a high bridge that juts out from his flooded town and where dozens of farming villagers like him stayed in the open overnight with their families, and their pigs, goats and chickens.

Koppu’s winds knocked down trees and electric posts, forced the suspension of dozens of flights and sea voyages, and the cancellation of classes in schools.

At least 11 people died, mostly due to drownings, landslides and fallen trees. One man was buried by a landslide while checking his farm on Sunday in the mountain town of Bakun in Benguet province. Two men drowned in Nueva Ecija, while a 14-year-old boy was killed when a huge branch of a tree fell on his family’s shanty in suburban Quezon city in metropolitan Manila.

Seven people died when a passenger motorboat capsized in bad weather in the central Philippines, but the government’s disaster-response agency has not included the deaths in the typhoon toll because the central region was not directly affected by the storm.

President Benigno Aquino III and disaster-response agencies had warned that Koppu’s rain and winds may potentially bring more damage with its slow speed. But government forecasters said that there was less heavy rain than expected initially in some areas, including in Manila, but that fierce winds lashed many regions.

Koppu, Japanese for “cup,” is the 12th storm this year to hit the Philippines, which averages 20 storms and typhoons each year.

In 2013, Typhoon Haiyan leveled entire towns in the central Philippines and left more than 7,300 people dead or missing.

— Associated Press

Bomb planted on Pakistani bus kills 11

QUETTA, Pakistan — Pakistani officials say a bomb planted on a passenger bus in the southwestern city of Quetta killed 11 passengers and wounded another 23.

Home Secretary Akber Durrani says the bus was traveling from the city center to the nearby town of Saryab when the bomb went off Monday. He says investigators believe the explosives were planted inside the bus.

Police officer Imtiaz Shah says a timed explosive device was used in the attack, and that the bus was carrying around 50 passengers.

No one has claimed responsibility for the blast.

Quetta is the capital of Baluchistan province, which has been the scene of a low-level insurgency by Baloch separatist groups. Islamic militants also operate in the province.

— Associated Press

China’s economic growth declines to 6-year low

BEIJING — China’s economy decelerated in the latest quarter but stronger spending by consumers who are emerging as an important pillar of growth helped to avert a deeper downturn.

The world’s second-largest economy grew by 6.9 percent in the three months ended in September, the slowest since early 2009 in the aftermath of the global financial crisis, data showed Monday. That was down from the previous quarter’s 7 percent.

China’s economic prospects are being scrutinized around the world. Its slowdown has unnerved global markets and held down worldwide economic growth, especially in countries such as Brazil and Australia that export raw materials to China.

Last month, the Federal Reserve cited China’s slowdown and deteriorating global economic conditions when it delayed a long-anticipated increase in short-term American interest rates.

Weakening trade and manufacturing have fueled concern in China about possible job losses and unrest. The communist government has cut interest rates five times since last November in an effort to shore up growth.

The latest data highlight the two-speed nature of China’s economy in the midst of a marathon effort by the Communist Party to nurture self-sustaining growth based on domestic consumption and reduce reliance on trade and investment. Manufacturers are shrinking and shedding millions of jobs while consumer-oriented businesses expand.

In September, growth in factory output slowed to 5.7 percent from August’s 6.1 percent. At the same time, retail sales growth rose to 10.9 percent from July’s 10.5 percent. E-commerce spending leaped ahead, rising 36 percent in the third quarter over a year earlier.

“Continued downward pressures from real estate and exports caused GDP growth to drop,” said Louis Kuijs of Oxford Economics in a report. “But robust consumption and infrastructure prevented a sharper slowdown.”

The decline in Chinese heavy industry and construction has depressed demand for oil, iron ore and other commodities, dragging on growth in Australia, Brazil and other supplier countries.

At the same time, rising Chinese incomes are propelling demand for European wines, wheat and fresh fruit from Australia and the United States, medical technology and other imports.

Private sector forecasters have cut their outlook for China’s growth this year to between 6.5 and 7 percent. That still would be the second-strongest of any major country, surpassed only by India, where the International Monetary Fund expects 7.5 percent. It would be more than double the 3.1 percent growth forecast by the IMF for the United States.

Much of China’s 5-year-old slowdown has been self-imposed but an unexpectedly sharp decline over the past year, due in part to weak demand for Chinese exports, prompted concern the downturn might be deepening too sharply. Forecasters expect Beijing to cut interest rates further and take other steps to shore up growth.

The IMF expects growth to slow to 6.3 percent next year and 6 percent in 2017.

“We think there is further slowing to go,” said Wei Li of Commonwealth Bank of Australia in a report. “Although we do not foresee China falling into a crisis, the economic growth rate is set to stay lower for longer.”

Communist leaders set an official growth target of “about 7 percent” for this year but have tried to discourage investors and the public from focusing on that figure. The top economic official, Premier Li Keqiang, said in September he would accept growth below that level so long as the economy keeps creating enough new jobs.

“In order to restructure, the economy will face some downward pressure,” said Sheng Laiyun, a spokesman for the Chinese statistics agency.

“China does not lack growth momentum,” said Sheng at a news conference. “Despite a slowdown in the industrial sector, China’s services sector is growing rapidly.”

Already, e-commerce, restaurants and other services for China’s own consumers account for 41.7 percent of the country’s employment, well ahead of manufacturing’s 34.7 percent share, according to government data.

The economy’s latest performance was slightly better than forecast, defying expectations the collapse of a stock market boom the previous quarter would drag down consumer spending.

September imports plunged in dollar value but analysts said that was due to lower prices for oil and other commodities. They noted the volume of imports of iron ore, oil and some other raw materials increased slightly, suggesting construction and manufacturing might be accelerating.

Exports in the first nine months of the year were down 1.9 percent from a year earlier, threatening the health of manufacturers that employ millions of workers. Weak global demand makes it unlikely Beijing can meet its trade growth target of 6 percent for this year.

Some forecasters suggest Beijing overstates growth and the true rate might be as low as 5 percent.

“Today’s data suggest that while the official GDP figures continue to overstate the actual pace of growth in China by a significant margin, underlying conditions are subdued but stable,” said Julian Evans-Pritchard of Capital Economics in a report.

— Associated Press

Snake gets loose on Philadelphia bus, leading to evacuation

PHILADELPHIA — Officials say a 4-foot-long boa constrictor has gotten loose on a Philadelphia bus, leading to an emergency evacuation.

Transit authority officials say a man carrying a boa constrictor boarded the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority bus just before 3 p.m. Sunday.

The snake’s owner, 26-year-old Koron Riley, tells The Philadelphia Inquirer that he had the snake draped around his neck and hidden under his jacket.

The bus had to be evacuated after the snake somehow got loose and coiled itself under a seat. A SEPTA mechanic was able to dismantle the seat, allowing a transit police officer to retrieve the snake and return it to Riley.

SEPTA policy allows riders to bring service animals or small, contained pets onto trains or buses.

Police haven’t decided if charges will be filed.

— Associated Press

Suspect in stabbing of 6 at Northern Calif. party identified

MADISON, Calif. — Authorities say they have identified a suspect in the stabbing of six people at a party celebrating a girl’s 15th birthday over the weekend in the town of Madison.

Yolo County Sheriff’s officials said Monday 18-year-old Daniel Portugal of Madison was arrested by deputies Saturday on six counts of assault with a deadly weapon and violation of probation.

The office says Portugal was an uninvited guest and was detained on the scene by people at the party. Deputies took Portugal into custody and recovered a weapon.

Authorities say the six victims were transported to local area hospitals by emergency medical personnel for treatment. All of the victims have survived their injuries.

They didn’t give a motive in the attacks.

— Associated Press

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