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Philippines left reeling by typhoon

China Daily | Updated: 2019-12-04 09:57

Residents gather around their damaged houses after Typhoon Kammuri hit Legazpi City in the Philippines. Nino Luces/Reuters

MANILA - Typhoon Kammuri on Tuesday lashed the Philippines with fierce winds and heavy rain, killing two men as hundreds of thousands took refuge in shelters and the capital Manila shut down its international airport over safety concerns.

The powerful storm, known locally as Tisoy, blew in windows and sheared off roofs. It roared ashore late on Monday and was due to pass south of Manila - home to nearly 13 million people - and thousands of athletes at the regional Southeast Asian Games.

Forecasters said Kammuri remained strong, with sustained winds of up to 155 kilometers per hour, and maximum gusts of 235 km/h as it tracked northwest.

"We're still assessing the damage but it looks like it's severe," said Luisito Mendoza, a disaster official in the town where the storm made landfall.

"There is one place where water levels reached the roof, ... our own personnel got hit by shattered glass," he added, saying many trees and power poles were felled by the winds.

A 33-year-old man was electrocuted while attempting to fix his roof, a civil defense official in the Bicol region told local radio. Another man was crushed by a falling tree, police said.

The managers of Manila's Ninoy Aquino International Airport had said operations were halted at 11 am as a precaution against high winds.

Nearly 500 flights were canceled and 100,000 people were impacted by the rare precautionary closure of all four terminals at Manila's main airport. Authorities had warned passengers not to go to the airport.

One of the terminals AFP visited, which would normally be bustling with morning departures, was occupied by a handful of staff and stranded passengers.

One traveler, 23-year-old Canadian Constance Benoit, was hit with a nearly day-long delay to her flight back home.

She had arrived in Manila on a typhoon-buffeted flight on Monday morning from the central island of Cebu.

"It was the most turbulent flight I ever took in my life," she said. "I just discovered what airsickness is."

It was not clear when the airport would reopen, but authorities gave an estimate of 11 pm on Tuesday and noted their decision would depend on the weather.

Pictures posted by social media users showed waves crashing against bulwarks, panels flying off roofs, trees on roads or being battered by strong winds.

Air travel continued in unaffected areas of the country.

About 340,000 people had been evacuated from their homes in the central Bicol region, disaster officials said.

People living in low-lying slum districts of the Manila area were told leave their makeshift homes as a precaution, but it was not clear how many people were impacted.

The Coast Guard suspended sea travel in the northeast, stranding thousands of travelers, cargo ships and smaller watercraft in the archipelago nation.

The Philippines is hit by an average of 20 storms and typhoons each year, killing hundreds and leaving people in disaster-prone areas in a state of constant poverty.

Games without spectators

The country's deadliest cyclone on record was Super Typhoon Haiyan, which left more than 7,300 people dead or missing in 2013.

Kammuri had already snarled some plans for the Southeast Asian Games, which opened on Saturday and are set to run through Dec 11 in and around Manila.

Organizers postponed several events until later in the competition, among them surfing, kayaking, windsurfing, polo, sailing, skateboarding and canoeing.

Ramon Suzara, chief operating officer of the organizing committee, said on Monday that organizers wanted the competitions to go on.

"Like (for) volleyball, it will continue as long as there is power supply and teams and technical officials are safe. We will continue but without spectators," he added.

Around 8,750 athletes and team officials are expected at this year's 30th edition of the Games - the biggest in the competition's history - along with 12,000 volunteers.


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