Frustration in Philippines as death toll from Typhoon Rammasun doubles

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 July, 2014, 10:21pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 July, 2014, 10:29pm

Millions of people in the Philippines endured a second sweltering day without power yesterday after a ferocious typhoon paralysed the capital and wrecked flimsy rural homes, claiming at least 38 lives.

Authorities expressed frustration as reports from badly damaged areas filtered in and the death toll from Typhoon Rammasun, the first major storm of the Southeast Asian archipelago's rainy season, was nearly doubled.

"We still have to find out what exactly are the reasons a lot of our countrymen refuse to heed the warnings," National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council chief Alexander Pama said.

As part of a "zero casualty" effort, the government evacuated nearly 400,000 people from the path of Rammasun and warned others to stay indoors.

But most of the people who died were outdoors, killed by falling trees, collapsing buildings and flying debris.

Pama said the death toll could rise further, with mobile phone and other forms of communication still cut to some rural areas.

He said at least eight people remained missing. Rammasun, a Thai word for "Thunder God", swept in off the Pacific Ocean on Tuesday night, causing wind gusts of up to 160km/h across land to Manila and other heavily populated northern regions.

The typhoon destroyed or damaged 26,000 homes, while cutting electricity supplies to nearly all of Manila, a megacity of more than 12 million people, and surrounding urban areas.

Schools and government offices were closed in the capital, hundreds of flights suspended and the stock exchange closed.

The stock exchange and government offices re-opened, but many schools remained closed partly because of the power problems. The Manila Electric Company (Meralco), the country's largest power distributor which serves the capital and surrounding areas, said 1.8 million households still did not have power late yesterday.

As temperatures soared to 33 degrees Celsius and the air was thick with tropical moisture, Meralco said it did not expect to have power fully restored to the capital and surrounding areas until late today.

Rammasun was last night in the South China Sea and tracking towards Hainan , the Japan Meteorological Agency said.