World

Thousands flee as typhoon heads towards Philippines

Operations at Manila airport to be temporarily suspended as safety measure; SEA Games plans in jeopardy

MANILA: Operations at Manila international airport were scheduled to be temporarily suspended as a safety precaution against powerful Typhoon Kammuri.

Airport general manager Ed Monreal said: "Based on our estimate, it will be closed from 11am to 11pm (today)."

Tens of thousands of people are already sheltering in evacuation centres as the powerful typhoon barrelled towards the Philippines, threatening plans for the South-east Asia (DEA) Games events near the capital, Manila.

Kammuri was expected to make landfall late yesterday or early today in the nation's east with intense rains and potent wind gusts of up to 185kmh, 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, 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," Mr Mark Timbal, the spokesman for the national disaster agency, told AFP.

The weather bureau also warned of rain-induced landslides and possible storm surges of up to 3m, which could hit coastal areas in the east.

The country is hit by an average of 20 storms and typhoons each year, killing hundreds.

Kammuri is already affecting plans for the SEA Games, which opened on Saturday and is set to run through to Dec 11.

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.

Mr Ramon Suzara, the chief operating officer of the organising committee, 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, the competition continues if necessary but without spectators," he said.

This year's Games in Clark, Manila and Subic are particularly complex, with a record 56 sports across dozens of venues that are in some cases hours apart by car.

WARNED

Singaporeans in the Philippines have been warned to take precautionary measures.

"Frequent to continuous heavy rains and strong winds are expected for the next few days," the Singapore Embassy said, adding that low-lying areas may be affected by flooding.

"Please take precautionary measures and stay indoors and away from windows.

"Do continue to monitor local news and look out for advisories from Pagasa", it added, referring to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration.

Singaporeans who require consular assistance can contact the embassy in Manila on +63-2-8856-9922 between 8.30am and 5pm or on +63-917-860-4740, its emergency line after office hours.

WORLD