3 killed as Typhoon Kammuri pounds Philippines, forces Manila airport closure

3 killed as Typhoon Kammuri pounds Philippines, forces Manila airport closure

Typhoon Kammuri tree
Policemen remove branches from a damaged tree following the passage of Typhoon Kammuri in Legaspi City, Albay province, south of Manila, Dec 3, 2019. (Photo: AFP/Razvale Sayat)

MANILA: Typhoon Kammuri on Tuesday (Dec 3) lashed the Philippines with fierce winds and heavy rain, as hundreds of thousands took refuge in shelters and the capital Manila shut down its international airport over safety concerns.

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

A man died after being electrocuted while attempting to fix his roof in Camarines Sur province, according to a civil defence official. 

Two people who ignored a mandatory evacuation were killed in Oriental Mindoro - one hit by a falling tree and the other by a sheet of metal roofing material.

"It could have been more if we did not have pre-emptive evacuation," Humerlito Dolor, governor of Oriental Mindoro province, told DZMM radio.

Forecasters said Kammuri had weakened but remained strong, with sustained winds of up to 150 kmh, and maximum gusts of 205 kmh as it tracked northwest.

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

READ: Singaporeans in Philippines urged to stay indoors as Typhoon Kammuri nears

The storm is on track to pass close to Manila, which is home to some 13 million people and the site
The storm is on track to pass close to Manila, which is home to some 13 million people and the site for many of the SEA Games events. (Photo: AFP/Handout)

"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 wind.

Due to the high winds, Manila's Ninoy Aquino International Airport was "closed for operations", airport authority general manager Ed Monreal told AFP.

He later told reporters that flights would resume at 11pm. 

About 500 flights were cancelled on Tuesday and officials had warned passengers not to come to the airport.

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

One traveller, 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 Monday morning from the central island of Cebu.

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

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

However, some residents opted to stay even as the storm began to strike.

"The wind is howling. Roofs are being torn off and I saw one roof flying," local resident Gladys Castillo Vidal told AFP.

"We decided to stay because our house is a two-storey made of concrete ... Hopefully it can withstand the storm."

People walk as Typhoon Kammuri, known locally as Typhoon Tisoy, makes landfall in Gamay
People walk as Typhoon Kammuri, known locally as Typhoon Tisoy, makes landfall in Gamay, Northern Samar, Philippines, Dec 2, 2019, in this still image from video obtained via social media. (Image: Reuters/Gladys Castillo Vidal)

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

Government offices and schools were closed in Metropolitan Manila and affected areas and utilities firms appealed for patience ahead of anticipated power outages. The coastguard halted commercial sea travel in affected areas.

Worst hit was the airport in Legazpi City, where television footage showed structural damage and cables, lighting and panels hanging from the ceiling over departure areas.

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

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

GAMES WITHOUT SPECTATORS

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

The windsurfing competition was halted as a precaution and triathlon events were held earlier than scheduled.

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

READ: SEA Games: Singapore athletes unfazed as Typhoon Kammuri delays flights, reschedules races

Map showing the path of Typhoon Kammuri
Map showing the path of Typhoon Kammuri. (Image: AFP/John Saeki)

"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.

The storm is another difficulty for the Games, which suffered from a string of logistical glitches and a rush of last-minute construction in the run-up to Saturday's opening.

READ: SEA Games: At least 8 sports affected as Typhoon Kammuri churns towards Luzon

The weather bureau also warned of rain-induced landslides and possible storm surges of up to three
The weather bureau also warned of rain-induced landslides and possible storm surges of up to 3m. (Photo: AFP/Alren Beronio)

This year's Games in Clark, Manila and Subic are already particularly complex, with competition in a record 56 sports at dozens of venues that are, in some cases, hours apart.

Around 8,750 athletes and team officials are expected at this year's edition - the biggest ever - along with another 12,000 volunteers.

Source: AFP/Reuters/zl/hm

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