Typhoon Xangsane batters Philippines, flooding towns, closing schools and offices

A powerful typhoon cut across the northern Philippines Thursday, hitting the capital with gale-force winds and pounding rain and leaving at least 10 people dead amid widespread floods and damage, officials said.

The Manila airport, which cancelled domestic and international flights due to the high winds and power outages, resumed operations by early evening.

Typhoon Xangsane toppled more than a dozen high voltage power lines, causing a "total system blackout" on the main Philippine island of Luzon shortly before 1 p.m. (0500 GMT), said Arvee Villafuerte, spokesman of the state-run National Transmission Corp.

He said the power restoration was slow because of the extent of the damage, adding that only about 12 percent of the entire Luzon grid was back up by 5 p.m. (0700 GMT). The blackout and debris left Manila without traffic and street lights, causing gridlocks in some areas. Hotels and shops used their own generators.

The Office of Civil Defense and local officials reported at least 10 people were killed, including a drunken man who fell into a river in central Antique province, a driver pinned under the steel frames of a giant billboard that fell on his van in Manila's financial district of Makati, and a man hit by a falling tree in Albay province southeast of Manila.

The typhoon packed maximum winds of 130 kilometers (81 miles) per hour and gusts of up to 160 kph (100 mph) when it made landfall overnight in the central Bicol region, where it knocked down electricity in five provinces.

It weakened into a storm with 110 kph winds (69 mph) as it passed over Manila, and moved to the South China Sea Thursday evening, heading west toward Vietnam at 22 kph (14 mph) with gusts of up to 140 kph (88 mph), forecasters said.

Gale-force winds toppled trees and heavy downpours triggered landslides, blocking some provincial roads. The typhoon also shut schools, ferries and the country's financial markets, and forced officials to suspend two commuter trains in metropolitan Manila. A much-awaited college league basketball championship game was postponed, reports AP.

Antique's acting governor Eduardo Fortaleza said rescue workers evacuated about 100 residents who were trapped on an islet in the middle of a raging river in Barbaza town.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo held a teleconference with her disaster management officials in Manila from the northern Clark economic zone, where she was forced to wait out the storm.

She returned to the presidential palace hours later after crisscrossing the city to avoid roads blocked by fallen trees and other debris, reporters traveling in her convoy said.

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