by Ron LOPEZ
Agence France Presse
Typhoon Kammuri killed at least two people in the Philippines on Tuesday as it tore roofs of houses and forced the international airport in Manila to shut down.
The storm roared ashore late Monday and passed south of Manila — home to 13 million people — and thousands of athletes at the regional Southeast Asian Games.
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.
Ahead of the storm’s arrival a 33-year-old man was electrocuted on Monday while securing a roof against the winds, which by late Tuesday weakened to a maximum of 140 kilometres (85 miles) per hour.
Authorities were still assessing the storm’s impact, but a small local airport was seriously damaged, many power poles toppled and homes were battered.
“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 areas first hit.
Due to the high winds, Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport was “closed for operations”, general manager Ed Monreal told AFP.
It was not clear when flights would resume, but authorities gave an estimate of 11:00 pm (1500 GMT) 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 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.
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 rescheduled –
Kammuri had already snarled some plans for the SEA Games, which opened Saturday and are set to run through December 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.
Kammuri wrought particular havoc on water-based and outdoor competitions, causing more than a dozen events to be postponed.
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.
The competition, which is spread across three main sites that are hours’ drive apart, includes a Games-record 56 sports and dozens of venues.
Around 8,750 athletes and team officials are expected at this year’s 30th edition — the biggest ever — along with another 12,000 volunteers.
© Agence France-Presse