MANILA - Typhoon Kammuri slammed into the Philippines on Tuesday (Dec 3), bringing heavy rains and gale-force winds as it tore across the main island of Luzon.
At least four people were killed and close to half-a-million huddled in evacuation centres as the typhoon, the 20th to hit the country this year, roared ashore late on Monday and passed south of the capital Manila, threatening to set off floods, landslides and storm surges.
The government suspended air and sea travel.
The main airport in Manila was ordered closed for much of Tuesday, while the coastguard halted commercial sea travel in affected areas.
Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific and AirAsia cancelled over 490 flights. At least 6,000 people were barred from travelling by sea.
Government offices and schools were closed in affected areas, and utility firms appealed for patience ahead of anticipated power outages.
Kammuri packed maximum winds of 155kmh near the centre and gusts of up to 235kmh, the nation’s weather bureau said in its 8am report.
By noon, as it traversed through a land mass, it had weakened slightly, with gusts of 205kmh.
The eyewall of the storm, known locally as Tisoy, brought violent winds and intense rainfall in four provinces in the Bicol region.
Local television showed footage of the main airport in Legazpi city in Albay province with cables, lighting and panels hanging from the ceiling.
“The terminal’s ceiling collapsed on the X-ray machine, and the windows were torn off,” Albay Governor Francis Bichara said in a radio interview.
He said the downpour was not alarmingly heavy. But the violent winds were ripping off roofs, toppling trees and knocking out power.
Electricity was shut in 10 areas in Luzon, as strong winds toppled power lines.
“It felt like blunt scissors cutting through,” said Mr Claudio Yucot, head of the Office of Civil Defence in Bicol.
He said he received a report that a 33-year-old man died when he touched a live wire as he was trying to keep his roof together.
As the typhoon was exiting the Philippines it hit one last major landmass, the central island of Mindoro, where one man was crushed by a falling tree and another killed by a flying piece of lumber, police said.
Police also reported that a construction worker died in Ormoc city, in Samar province, further south of Bicol, after he was struck by tree branches as he was driving his motorcycle.
Pictures posted on social media showed waves crashing against bulwarks, felled trees and signage, and some minor damage to electricity poles.
“We hope there won’t be any damage. But given its (Kammuri’s) strength, we can’t avoid it,” Mr Mark Timbal, spokesman for the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council told Agence France-Presse.
Kammuri had already snarled some plans for the Southeast Asian Games, which opened Saturday and are set to run through Dec 11 in and around Manila. The typhoon forced organisers to reschedule about half of the events set for Tuesday, but they pledged the competition would finish on time.
The Philippines is hit by an average of 20 typhoons each year, and the most destructive ones tend to come from October.
Kammuri was likened to typhoons that slammed the Philippines in 2014 and 2006, which had the same profile and hit at around the same time of the year.
The 2014 typhoon left over 100 dead, while the one that struck in 2006 killed over 730.
Typhoon season used to end in October but has stretched to December since the year 2000, a phenomenon experts blamed on climate change.
In November 2013, history’s most powerful typhoon barrelled across central Philippines. Haiyan levelled an entire city, leaving over 6,300 people dead in its wake and displacing some 4 million.