Thousands flee as Typhoon Kammuri churns towards Philippines

MANILA (AFP) – Tens of thousands of people were sheltering in evacuation centres as powerful Typhoon Kammuri barrelled towards the Philippines, threatening plans for the Southeast Asian Games events near the capital Manila.

Kammuri made landfall in the nation’s east with intense rains and potent wind gusts of up to 185 kilometres per hour, forecasters said.

The storm is on track to then pass close to Manila, which is home to some 13 million people and the site for many of the SEA Games events.

Nearly 70,000 people have already fled their homes in the Bicol region, which is where the typhoon is expected to strike first.

“We hope there won’t be any damage, but given its (Kammuri’s) strength, we can’t avoid it,” spokesman for the national disaster agency Mark Timbal told AFP. “We have preemptively evacuated people in areas that are in the storm’s direct path.”

The weather bureau also warned of rain-induced landslides and possible storm surges of up to three metres which could hit coastal areas in the nation’s east.

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 over 7,300 people dead or missing in 2013.

Kammuri is already snarling plans for the SEA Games, which opened on Saturday for thousands of athletes from the region and is set to run through to December 11 in and around Manila.

Windsurfing was halted as a precaution and triathlon events were held earlier than scheduled.

Organisers told reporters yesterday that each sport is overseen by delegates and ultimately they would make the call on any possible cancellations or rescheduling.

Chief Operating Officer of the organising committee Ramon Suzara said contingency plans were in place for bad weather, but the duration of the Games would not be extended.

“For example, basketball or volleyball, normally if there are typhoons, which has been done, the competition continues if necessary but without spectators,” he said.

The storm is the latest trouble for the Games, which saw a series of transport snafus and a rush of last-minute construction ahead of the opening.