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Strong typhoon threatens Philippines, leaves 47 fishermen missing and 7,500 people stranded

Utor, the strongest typhoon to threaten to hit the Philippines this year

Utor, the strongest typhoon to threaten to hit the Philippines this year

Digital writers

Sunday, August 11, 2013, 2:53 PM -

A powerful typhoon blew closer to the northeastern Philippines on Sunday, leaving at least 47 fishermen missing and more than 7,500 passengers stranded in piers as authorities suspended inter-island ferry services and warned people to brace for possible flash floods and landslides. 

Government forecasters said Typhoon Utor gathered strength over the Philippine Sea as it barrelled closer to mountainous Aurora Province with sustained winds of 165 km/h and gusts of up to 200 km/h. 

Utor, the strongest typhoon to threaten to hit the country this year, was swirling about 190 km southeast of Aurora's Casiguran town and was expected to slam into shore early Monday, forecaster Glaiza Esculliar said.

At least 47 fishermen were reported missing by their families in four towns in Catanduanes province and authorities were hoping they just took shelter in coves and nearby islands amid the stormy weather, said Office of Civil Defence regional director Bernardo Alejandro IV. 

"I hope they're just waiting for the typhoon to pass and will show up as soon as the weather clears,'' he said. 

Dozens of passenger and cargo ferries were not allowed to venture out in increasingly choppy seas from northeastern provinces, stranding more than 7,500 passengers. Authorities also stopped fishing boats from sailing and ordered fishermen already at sea to return to shore, Alejandro IV said. 

Officials suspended classes in grade and high schools in Manila and outlying cities and towns, fearing flooding and heavy rain. At least five domestic flights were cancelled amid the bad weather. 

Utor is the 12th of about 20 storms and typhoons expected to lash the Philippines this year.

With files from The Associated Press

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