Updated at 1:41 p.m. ET on 2019-12-03
Typhoon Kammuri left at least four people dead, ripped off roofs, toppled power lines and shut down airports as it barreled across the Philippines on Tuesday with powerful winds and heavy rains, officials said.
Tens of thousands of Filipinos were also evacuated hours before the storm hit the archipelago, and in a span of hours between Monday night and Tuesday morning, howling winds were announcing its destructive power, BenarNews reporters said.
The storm, locally known as Tisoy, made landfall in Sorsogon province on the southeastern part of Luzon, the country’s most populous island, late Monday, packing maximum sustained winds of almost 215 kilometers per hour (134 miles per hour) – the equivalent of a Category 4 hurricane that often causes catastrophic damage, according to PAGASA, the national weather agency.
It then slammed Burias Island in Masbate province at around dawn Tuesday before roaring through Torrijos town in nearby Marinduque with its eye spotted around 55 km (34 miles) east of Calapan in Mindoro, authorities said.
Local television news footages showed piles of debris where homes used to be erected in one village in Legazpi city, near Sorsogon. Residents emerged from their ruined homes appearing dazed, while children collected household materials they could salvage.
A BenarNews reporter said wind gusts had picked up Monday night and that the water quickly rose half the car’s tire before subsiding later.
In Albay, which suffered the most in the early hours of the typhoon, Gov. Francis Bichara said the local domestic airport sustained “substantial damage.”
“The ceiling of the airport collapsed and it fell on the X-ray machine. The wind was so strong and it caused destruction to houses and even shopping malls,” Bichara told local radio DZBB.
A 33-year-old man died in the town of Libmanan in Camarines Sur province at the height of the typhoon, while a worker was killed when a tree fell on him in the central city of Ormoc. Two others died due to storm-related injuries in the island of Mindoro.
Sen. Richard Gordon, the Philippine Red Cross chairman, told reporters that Kammuri destroyed schools and hoses made of light materials and wood in Albay province.
“Our team is assessing the damage brought by Kammuri. Our volunteers and staff are on the ground, monitoring and assessing the damage brought by the onslaught of Kammuri,” Gordon said.
Authorities ordered a 12-hour shutdown of the Philippine capital’s main airport until late Tuesday night due to strong winds brought about by the storm.
“I can take all the blame with the decision to close the airport operation, but I cannot take the blame once one’s life is lost due to inextricable circumstances brought about by typhoon,” Ed Monreal, general manager of the Manila International Airport Authority, told reporters.
The U. N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said around nine million people are living in typhoon-hit areas.
“Worst-affected areas experienced widespread damage or higher,” OCHA said in a statement.
About 20 tropical storms and typhoons batter the Philippines each year, some of them devastating. In 2012, more than 1,000 people died as Typhoon Bopha swept across eastern Mindanao with wind gusts of up to 200 kph (124 mph). A year earlier, more than 600 died when typhoon Washi slammed into the southern island.
In November 2013, at least 7,000 people died and scores were reported missing after Super typhoon Haiyan slammed into the central Philippines, causing massive storm surges.
Yeb Saño, Southeast Asian executive director of Greenpeace, said the havoc brought by Kammuri was a jarring example of climate change and its destructive effects around the world.
Saño noted that the typhoon coincided with the opening of the UN-sponsored climate change talks this year, where dire warnings had been raised about the issue.
“The Philippines is regularly battered with extreme weather events that are getting more severe with climate change,” he said. “We are facing another strong typhoon, yet we are still dealing with the same problem – the same greed of big polluters that have stolen our future and blocked progress to attain climate justice.”
Jeoffrey Maitem in Cotabato City contributed to this report.