MANILA • Typhoon Kammuri barrelled towards the Philippines yesterday, leaving one person dead while pushing tens of thousands of others into evacuation centres and prompting the temporary closure of Manila's international airport.
Kammuri was expected to make landfall in the nation's east late yesterday or early today. It will then be expected to pass to the south of the capital, which is home to some 13 million people and is hosting thousands of athletes for the regional SEA Games.
Airport officials said they made the call to suspend operations based on the potency of the storm, which was forecast to come ashore with intense rain and sustained winds of up to 165kmh as well as gusts of up to 230kmh, forecasters said.
"Based on our estimate, it will be closed from 11am to 11pm tomorrow, Dec 3," said Mr Ed Monreal, general manager of Manila's airport authority, yesterday.
At least one person had been killed as a result of the approaching typhoon, Bloomberg reported, without giving details.
The storm can have a "high humanitarian impact", the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System said on its website, putting a population of eight million at risk.
Nearly 70,000 people had already fled their homes in the Bicol region, disaster officials said, which is where the typhoon is expected to strike first.
However, some residents opted to stay put even as the storm's power began to hit. "The wind is howling. Roofs are being torn off and I saw one roof flying," local Gladys Castillo Vidal told Agence France-Presse. "We decided to stay because our house is a two-storey (building) made of concrete... Hopefully it can withstand the storm."
More than 50 areas have been placed on a storm signal 3 warning, the third-highest in a five-level scale. A signal 3 warning could bring winds of as much as 170kmh - strong enough to topple coconut trees and destroy rice and corn crops.
Metro Manila and nearly a hundred other areas in Luzon and Visayas are under signal 2. Heavy rain and winds due to the typhoon are expected to be felt in the capital starting this morning, prompting class suspensions.
Philippine Airlines and Cebu Air have suspended dozens of flights, while more than 5,500 people are stranded in various ports after ferry services were halted.
The country's weather bureau has also warned of rain-induced landslides and possible storm surges of up to 3m which could hit coastal areas in the nation's east.
The Singapore Embassy in Manila yesterday urged Singaporeans in the Philippines to take precautionary measures and stay indoors and away from windows.
"Frequent to continuous heavy rains and strong winds are expected for the next few days," the embassy said in a notice issued on its Facebook page, adding that low-lying areas may be affected by flooding. It urged Singaporeans who require consular assistance to contact the embassy.
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.
Kammuri was reported to be following the same path as Typhoon Rammasun, which killed more than 100 people in July 2014.
The country's deadliest cyclone on record was Super Typhoon Haiyan, which left more than 7,300 people dead or missing in 2013.
The typhoon has already snarled up some plans for the SEA Games, which opened last Saturday for thousands of athletes from the region and is set to run till Dec 11 in and around Manila.
Windsurfing was halted as a precaution and triathlon events were held earlier than scheduled.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, BLOOMBERG