Typhoon batters Philippines; 23 fishermen missing

A powerful typhoon struck the northern Philippines on Monday, toppling power lines and dumping heavy rains across mountains, cities and food-growing plains and leaving at least 23 fishermen missing.

Typhoon Utor, described as the strongest typhoon globally so far this year, slammed ashore in mountainous eastern Aurora province with sustained winds of 175 kilometers (109 miles) per hour and gusts of up to 210 kph (130 mph).

About 1,000 residents in the central Bicol region spent the night in shelters while Aurora province was without power, the national disaster agency said. Radio stations reported roofs were blown off and a covered basketball court washed away in Dinalungan town.

There was no immediate word on casualties, but 23 fishermen who were out at sea failed to return home in four towns in Catanduanes province, according to their families. Authorities were hoping they just took shelter in coves and nearby islands, said Office of Civil Defense 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. A higher number of missing had been reported over the weekend, but some fishermen since returned home.

More than 8,000 travelers were stranded as passenger and cargo ferries were grounded.

Classes in towns and cities on the typhoon's path were suspended, including in the capital Manila, and several domestic flights canceled.

Utor was forecast to cut across the main northern island of Luzon on Monday and move into the South China Sea on Tuesday in the direction of Guangdong in China, expected to make landfall there Wednesday.

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

A Filipino worker folds a billboard ad that shows Antonio Spurs Tony Parker as people brace for Typhoon Utor in Manila, Philippines on Sunday, Aug. 11, 2013. More than 3,000 passengers were stranded on piers in the northeastern Philippines Sunday, as the strong typhoon approaches and prompted authorities to suspend ferry services and warn people to brace for possible flash floods and landslides.(AP Photo/Aaron Favila) Enlargephoto

A Filipino worker folds a billboard ad that shows Antonio Spurs Tony Parker as people brace for Typhoon Utor in Manila, Philippines on Sunday, Aug. 11, 2013. More than 3,000 passengers were stranded on piers in the northeastern Philippines Sunday, as the strong typhoon approaches and prompted authorities to suspend ferry services and warn people to brace for possible flash floods and landslides.(AP Photo/Aaron Favila)