MANILA – A powerful typhoon ripped off tin roofs, flooded low-lying villages and damaged an airport overnight and early Tuesday as it blew through a Philippine region where tens of thousands of villagers had fled to safety.
Typhoon Kammuri was forecast to blow near Mindoro island province south of the Manila metropolis by the afternoon before passing into the South China Sea. Manila’s international airport was closing during the expected peak of the typhoon’s effects at midday, with flights canceled or diverted.
Philippine forecasters said after daybreak the typhoon had maximum sustained winds of 155 kilometers (96 miles) per hour and gusts of up to 190 kph (118 mph). Warnings of prolonged heavy rainfall and storm surges of up to 3 meters (nearly 10 feet) prompted evacuations of nearly 90,000 people from coastal and low-lying areas prone to flash floods and landslides, according to the Office of Civil Defense.
“We’re aiming for zero casualties and we can attain that with pre-emptive evacuations,” said Ricardo Jalad, who heads the government’s disaster response agency.
The pounding rain and winds had started at nightfall in eastern Albay, Sorsogon and Catanduanes provinces, where the typhoon blew ashore. At the airport terminal in Legazpi city in Albay province, parts of the ceiling collapsed, chairs were scattered in passenger areas, and glass panes and signs were shattered. Elsewhere in Legazpi, tin roofs of some houses were torn off, some trees toppled.
Albay province is home to the Mount Mayon volcano, which is famous for its near-perfect cone and has erupted about 50 times in the last 500 years. Its last significant eruption was in early 2018 and prompted tens of thousands of people to evacuate nearby villages.
The Philippines is battered by about 20 typhoons and tropical storms each year and has frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, making the archipelago of more than 100 million people one of the world’s most disaster-prone nations.
In advance of the typhoon, schools were closed and transportation halted in the affected provinces. The coast guard suspended sea travel in the northeast, stranding thousands of travelers, cargo ships and smaller watercraft.
The Philippines is currently hosting thousands of Southeast Asian athletes for biennial regional games that opened Saturday. Organizers said wind-surfing competitions have been postponed and other events would be delayed if needed for safety but there was no plan to extend the 11-day games.