Typhoon Kammuri death toll rises to four in Philippines

Manila (AFP) –


At least four people are known to have died after a powerful typhoon ripped through the Philippines, officials said Wednesday, with high-speed winds prompting large-scale evacuations, tearing off roofs and shutting down Manila airport.

Typhoon Kammuri wreaked havoc on islands and provinces south of the capital Manila on Tuesday, sending nearly 600,000 people fleeing their homes, civil defence officials said.

Three people died on the islands of Mindoro and Marinduque after being hit by falling trees and other objects, and a fourth drowned on the island of Leyte, police and officials reported.

"Our hope is those (deaths) would be the last," civil defence official Mark Timbal told AFP.

The impact could have been worse if not for the preparations made by communities and local governments however, Timbal added, with several provinces reporting zero casualties.

"We saw an improvement in the behaviour of the people who are now more willing to participate in evacuation procedures," said Timbal, who is the spokesman for the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

"Social media is a factor, while people also became more concerned over their safety in light of the series of deadly earthquakes that hit the country in recent months."

"Pre-emptive evacuation was the key," said Sher Saises, a civil defence official in the central city of Tacloban -- ground zero for Super Typhoon Haiyan, the country's deadliest on record which left more than 7,300 people dead or missing in 2013.

Other civil defence officials who spoke to AFP described how residents, including about half a million from the Bicol region southeast of Manila, sought safety from high waves, floods and landslides days before the storm made landfall.

Manila airport shut down for 12 hours Tuesday as a precaution, affecting nearly 500 flights, while half the day's programme at the Southeast Asian Games, hosted by Manila and nearby cities, was rescheduled over safety concerns.

Four other people drowned in the Bicol region this week during the passage of Kammuri, police told AFP, but added they could not immediately determine whether these deaths were typhoon-related.

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.

Earthquakes, floods and volcanic eruptions are also frequent hazards.