Kammuri closes Manila airport

AFP

MANILA: Typhoon Kammuri lashed the Philippines with fierce winds and heavy rain yesterday 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 some 13 million people — and thousands of athletes at the regional Southeast Asian Games.

Forecasters said Kammuri had weakened but remained strong, with sustained winds of up to 150 kilometers per hour, and maximum gusts of 205 kph as it tracked northwest. “A lot of trees fell… There were a lot of roofs flying during the typhoon too,” said Junie Castillo, a disaster officer in one of the area’s first hit. “We have yet to quantify the extent of the damage.”

A 33-year-old man was electrocuted on Monday while securing a roof ahead of the storm’s arrival, police said. That is the only fatality so far reported. Due to the high winds, Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport was “closed for operations”, airport authority general manager Ed Monreal said.

Policemen remove branches from a damaged tree following the passage of Typhoon Kammuri in Legaspi City, Albay province, south of Manila – source AFP

It was not clear when flights would resume, but authorities gave an estimate of 11.00pm Tuesday and said their decision would depend on the weather. Nearly 500 flights were cancelled, and officials warned passengers not to come to the airport. One of the terminals 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 daylong 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. People living in low-lying slum districts of Manila were told to leave their makeshift homes as a precaution, but it was not clear how many people were impacted.

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. – AFP

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