Flights cancelled as Kammuri slams Manila

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Typhoon Kammuri's potent gusts forced officials to close Manila's international airport as a precaution. AFP

Typhoon Kammuri lashed the Philippines with fierce winds and heavy rain on Tuesday 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 on 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 150km/h, and maximum gusts of 205km/h 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 locations first to be struck. “We have yet to quantify the extent of the damage.”

A 33-year-old man was electrocuted 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.

It was not clear when flights would resume, but authorities gave an estimate of 11pm (1500 GMT) on 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, 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 on Monday morning from the central tourist-friendly island of Cebu.

“It was the most turbulent flight I ever took in my life,” she said.

“I have 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.

Kammuri had already snarled some plans for the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, which opened on Saturday and are set to run through December 11 in and around Manila.

The windsurfing competition was halted as a precaution and triathlon events were brought forward.

Ramon Suzara, the chief operating officer of the organising committee, on Monday said organisers wanted the competitions to go on.

“Like [for] volleyball, it will continue as long as there is power supply and teams and technical officials are safe, we will continue but without spectators,” he said.

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.