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Sept. 28 (Bloomberg) -- Typhoon Nesat, which hit the Philippines’ most populous Luzon island, left at least 20 people dead and dimmed prospects for a record rice harvest.
“Had it not been for this storm, we could reach record output this year,” Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said in an interview with DZRH Radio, when asked about rice production. “We’re praying for the sun to shine.”
Nesat was centered about 380 kilometers (238 miles) northwest of Baguio City on the north coast of Luzon at 11 a.m. local time today and was accelerating with maximum winds of 130 kilometers per hour as it moved away from the country, the weather bureau said today. A new tropical storm will likely enter the country within 24 hours, ABS-CBN News reported, citing the weather bureau’s officer-in-charge Graciano Yumul.
The number of “affected” people reached 171,570 in 22 provinces, with almost 53,000 being served inside and outside evacuation centers, the disaster risk agency said. The death count has risen to 20, Civil Defense Administrator Benito Ramos told reporters in Manila today.
The Philippines gets hit by an average of 20 cyclones each year that form over the Pacific Ocean to the east. In September 2009, Tropical Storm Ketsana submerged most of the nation’s capital after dumping 41 centimeters (16 inches) of rain in six hours, killing more than 300 people.
The Southeast Asian nation, previously the world’s biggest buyer of rice, cut imports by more than half to 860,000 tons this year from 2.5 million tons in 2010 as domestic production increased. The local harvest rose 14.4 percent to 7.577 million tons in the first half and will increase 6.2 percent to 9.72 million tons in the second, according to data from the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics.
The country will probably meet its production target of more than 17 million tons this year, helping slash imports in 2012, said Alcala on Sept. 26.
Provinces in Luzon island represent half of the total rice harvest, according to the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics. The agriculture agency is assessing crop damage, Alcala said today.
The central bank is also reviewing the extent of the damage on crops and its impact on inflation, said Deputy Governor Diwa Guinigundo in a mobile phone message to reporters today.
Hydroelectric power plants will get “priority dispatch” to bring down water levels in dams, Energy Secretary Rene Almendras said. About 189,000 of Manila Electric Co.’s 4.9 million customers were still without electricity as of this morning, the company said. That compares with 44 percent that were without power at midday yesterday after Nesat flooded streets and wind toppled trees and electric poles.
--With assistance from Karl Lester Yap and Clarissa Batino. Editor: James Poole
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