A typhoon that barreled through the northern Philippines left at least 38 people dead and knocked out power in entire provinces and forced more than half a million people to flee its lethal wind and rains, officials said Thursday.
Most businesses, malls and banks in the Philippine capital reopened a day after Typhoon Rammasun left the country but schools remained closed Thursday as workers cleaned up storm debris, which littered roads around Manila, slowing traffic.
The eye of the typhoon made a late shift away from Manila on Wednesday, but its peak winds of 150 kilometers (93 miles) per hour and gusts up to 185 kph (115 mph) toppled trees and electric posts and ripped off roofs across the capital.
Although Rammasun packed far less power than Typhoon Haiyan, haunting memories of last year’s horrific storm devastation prompted many villagers to rapidly move.
More than 500,000 of over 1 million people affected by the typhoon fled to emergency shelters in about a dozen provinces and the Philippine capital, said Alexander Pama, executive director of the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council.
Pama said at least 38 people died in the wake of the typhoon and 10 were reported missing.
Authorities said most of casualties were hit by falling trees or concrete walls or by flying debris. One volunteer firefighter who was hauling down a Philippine flag in suburban Pasig city was killed by a concrete block, said Francis Tolentino, chairman of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority.
Electricity has been restored to most of the capital’s 12 million people, but large swaths of provinces southeast of Manila which bore the brunt of the typhoon still had no power, Pama said.
Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada said his city staged anti-disaster drills two weeks ago to prepare and was relieved that only a few residents were injured. There was relatively little flooding in the Philippine capital.
At Manila’s international airport, the left wing of a Singapore Airlines Boeing 777 was damaged after powerful gusts pushed it against a bridge passageway, manager Angel Honrado said. No one was injured.
Pama said the typhoon destroyed more than 7,000 houses and damaged more than 19,000. About $1 million in infrastructure was destroyed and at least $14 million in crops and livestock were lost, he said.
Mayor Cherilie Mella Sampal of Polangui town in Albay, one of the hardest hit provinces southeast of Manila, said 10,000 of her 80,000 constituents, abandoned their homes before the typhoon, many worried after witnessing Haiyan’s deadly aftermath in the central Philippines last November.
At least 6,300 people died and more than 1,000 were left missing from Haiyan, one of the most ferocious typhoons to hit land.
Although Rammasun slightly weakened as it scythed across the country’s main northern Luzon Island, it may strengthen over the South China Sea before reaching either Vietnam or southern China, according to government forecasters.
Rammasun, the Thai term for god of thunder, is the seventh storm to batter the Philippines this year. About 20 typhoons and storms lash the archipelago on the western edge of the Pacific each year, making it one of the world’s most disaster-prone countries.