MANILA: A typhoon killed at least 10 people as it churned across the Philippines and shut down the capital, cutting power and prompting the evacuation of almost more than 370,000 people, rescue officials said yesterday.
The eye of Typhoon Rammasun, the strongest storm to hit the country this year, passed south of Manila yesterday after cutting a path across the main island of Luzon, toppling trees and power lines and causing electrocutions and widespread blackouts.
Government offices, financial markets and schools closed for the day.
Major roads across Luzon were blocked by debris, fallen trees, electricity poles and tin roofs ripped off village houses. The storm uprooted trees in the capital where palm trees lining major arteries were bent over by the wind as broken hoardings bounced down the streets.
Public Works and Highways Secretary Rogelio Singson and Admiral Alexander Pama, the executive director of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, surveyed the typhoon-affected areas by helicopter.
“I am happily surprised because of the minimal casualties and damage,” Singson said, adding the typhoon had passed through the most populated area of the country, with about 17 million people living in its path.
Singson and Pama said the government was more prepared this time, after the devastation caused by Super Typhoon Haiyan in November, evacuating people at risk in coastal and landslide-prone areas well before the typhoon made landfall.
Parts of the Philippines are still recovering from Haiyan, one of the biggest cyclones known to have made landfall anywhere. It killed more than 6,100 people in the central provinces, many in tsunami-like sea surges, and left millions homeless.
Tropical Storm Risk, which monitors cyclones, downgraded Rammasun to a category-one storm on a scale of one to five as it headed northwest into the South China Sea. Haiyan was category five. A category-one storm has maximum sustained winds of 153 kph. But it predicted Rammasun would gain in strength to a category-three storm within a couple of days, picking up energy from the warm sea as it heads for the Chinese island of Hainan.
The number of evacuated people had reached more than 370,000, mostly in the eastern province of Albay, the first to be hit by the typhoon, the disaster agency said. They were taken to schools, gymnasiums and town halls converted into shelters.
The storm brought storm surges to Manila Bay and prompted disaster officials to evacuate slum-dwellers on the capital’s outskirts.
More than half of Luzon was without power, Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla told reporters. Manila Electric Company, the country’s biggest power utility exclusively supplying to the capital, said around 86 percent of its customers were without electricity.