16 Jul 2014

Thousands flee as typhoon hits Philippines

Weather Presenter

At least 10 people have been killed by a typhoon as it hit the Philippines on Wednesday, packing damaging winds and torrential downpours of rain.

The eye of Typhoon Rammasun, the strongest storm to hit the country this year, passed south of Manila, after taking a path across the main island of Luzon.

As the storm moved through, it left a path of damage and destruction, with trees and power lines toppled, causing widespread loss of electricity.

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.

Transport was also hit badly, with major roads blocked by fallen trees, electricity poles and debris from homes – such as tin roofs.

Almost 400 flights were grounded during a four-hour closure of Manila airport. Two planes suffered minor damage when gusts blew them into nearby obstacles, airport officials said.

Train services in the capital remained suspended because of the lack of electricity

On the water, ferry services were expected to resume later in the day, including to the holiday island of Boracay where 300 tourists were stranded.

Ahead of the typhoon’s arrival, more than 370,000 people were evacuated, mostly in the eastern province of Albay, which was first to be hit by the storm.

Despite concerns and evacuations prior to the typhoon’s arrival, it seems as though the level of damage hasn’t been as bad as was anticipated.

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.

Singson said: “I am happily surprised because of the minimal casualties and damage,” adding the typhoon had passed through the most populated area of the country, with about 17 million people living in its path.

The typhoon is now heading out across the South China Sea, where it will strengthen again as it draws energy from the warm ocean waters.

Rammasun is expected to make a second landfall close to the China-Vietnam border early on Saturday, equivalent to category three hurricane, packing sustained winds of 120mph.

This will bring a significant risk of heavy rain, flash flooding and a dangerous storm surge fow low-lying coastal areas.