Typhoon shuts down Philippine capital, triggers mass evacuations
MANILA (Reuters) - Philippine authorities evacuated almost 150,000 people from their homes and shuttered financial markets, government offices, businesses and schools on Wednesday as typhoon Rammasun gathered strength and hit the capital, Manila.
The typhoon, the strongest to hit the country this year, has already torn through eastern islands, toppling trees and power lines and causing blackouts. On Wednesday, it brought storm surges to the Manila Bay area and prompted disaster officials to evacuate slum-dwellers on the capital's outskirts.
"The wind is very strong, stronger than the rains. It's something that I've never experienced in the past," Mark Leviste, vice governor of Batangas province south of the capital, said in a radio interview.
Parts of the Philippines are still recovering from Typhoon Haiyan, one of the biggest cyclones known to have made landfall anywhere. It killed more than 6,100 people last November in the central provinces, many in tsunami-like sea surges, and left millions homeless.
Typhoon Rammasun was gusting up to 185 kph (115 mph) on Wednesday with sustained winds of 150 kph (93 mph) near its center.
A 25-year-old woman was killed when she was hit by a falling electricity pole as Rammasun entered the country's eastern coast on Tuesday, the Philippine disaster agency said.
Nearly 150,000 people have been evacuated from their homes in low-lying and coastal areas. More than 60 international and domestic flights have been cancelled over the past two days.
Trading at the Philippine Stock Exchange and Philippine Dealing System, used for foreign exchange trading, were suspended after government offices were ordered shut.
Tropical Storm Risk rated Rammasun as a category-three typhoon, on a scale of one to five where five is the most severe. It is expected to bring heavy to intense rainfall of up to 30 mm per hour within its 500-km (300-mile) radius.
Rammasun was expected to bring storm surges of up to three meters (10 feet) in coastal villages, the weather bureau said.
(Reporting by Rosemarie Francisco and Karen Lema; Editing by Mark Bendeich)
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