MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Typhoon Rammasun strengthened overnight, leaving at least one person dead and knocking out power in many areas, but its fierce wind shifted slightly Wednesday to spare the Philippine capital, Manila, and densely populated northern provinces from being directly pummeled, officials said.
Still, the typhoon’s 150-kilometer (93-mile) wind and blinding 185-kph (115-mph) gusts, brought down trees, electric posts and ripped off roofs across the capital of 12 million people where government offices and schools were closed. While there have been no reports of massive damages and flooding, officials warned the public the danger wasn’t over.
“We’re telling the people this is not a time to act like toughies because it’s still dangerous. There could be storm surges,” Alexander Pama, executive director of the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council, told reporters.
A woman died after being hit by a fallen electric post in Northern Samar and two men were electrocuted but survived in Camarines Sur. Three fishermen have been reported missing in Catanduanes. The three provinces were lashed by Rammasun after it made landfall in Albay province late Tuesday.
Instead of slamming into Manila, the typhoon veered slightly westward and struck Cavite province just south of the capital and was barreling toward the Bataan Peninsula at mid-morning and was expected to blow toward the South China Sea. But Rammasun’s 500-kilometer (310-mile) wide band of wind and rain still hammered a wide swathe of the capital and northern agricultural provinces, government weather forecasters said.
There were no immediate damage estimates, especially in communities that lost power and telephone connections while being pummeled by the wind and rain.
With last year’s massive devastation and deaths from Typhoon Haiyan still in many people’s mind, nearly 150,000 people fled from high-risk communities into emergency shelters, officials.
Polangui Mayor Cherilie Mella Sampal said 10,000 of the 80,000 residents in her town in Albay, about 340 kilometers (210 miles) southeast of Manila, were evacuated before the typhoon struck Tuesday. Sampal said she saw the wind topple electric posts and lift roofs off houses.
Sampal said residents were worried after witnessing Haiyan’s horrific aftermath in the central Philippines last November.
“We’re used to and prepared for calamities,” Sampal told The Associated Press by cellphone. “But when people heard that the eye of the typhoon will hit the province, they feared we may end up like the victims of Yolanda,” she said, referring to the local name of Haiyan.
Haiyan’s strong winds and tsunami-like storm surges flattened towns, leaving at least 6,300 people dead and more than 1,000 missing.
“I was scared because our house was being pounded by strong wind and rain. We were drenched in the rain,” Lucille Navarro, a 35-year-old mother of two, said by cellphone from a crowded evacuation shelter in Albay.
Rammasun, the Thai term for god of thunder, is the seventh storm to batter the Philippines this year. About 20 typhoons and storm lash the archipelago on the western edge of the Pacific each year, making it one of the world’s most disaster-prone countries.
Associated Press writer Oliver Teves contributed to this report.