MANILA, July 17 Financial markets are set to
reopen in the Philippines on Thursday as residents clear debris
and authorities work to restore power after a typhoon churned
across the Southeast Asian country, killing at least 20 people.
Typhoon Rammasun, the strongest storm to hit the Philippines
this year, is heading towards China after cutting a path across
the main island of Luzon, shutting down the capital and knocking
down trees and power lines, causing widespread blackouts.
Most schools remain closed in the capital and southern Luzon
provinces, the most densely populated part of the country with
about 17 million people. Power has been restored to just over
half of the Luzon grid, a transmission agency official said.
Disaster officials are still assessing damage but the
coconut-growing Quezon province south of Manila appears to have
borne the brunt of Rammasun, which intensified into a category 3
typhoon as it crossed the Philippines.
Tropical Storm Risk, which monitors cyclones, has downgraded
Rammasun to a category 1 storm on a scale of one to five as it
heads northwest into the South China Sea.
"In the aspect of infrastructure, it looks like Quezon
province was most affected," said retired Admiral Alexander
Pama, executive director of the national disaster agency.
"As of last night, it looks like there was a lot of damage,"
he said. An aerial survey would be conducted to confirm reports
that about 95 percent of the province was damaged, he said.
Quezon governor David Suarez said the province was preparing
to declare a state of calamity. He said officials had confirmed
seven people died in the province.
"Last night we had difficulty going around because many
trees and fallen poles are blocking highways and roads," Suarez
said in a radio interview.
Nationwide, more than 420,000 people were forced out of
their homes and into evacuation centres, many in the eastern
Bicol region where the typhoon first made landfall, the disaster
At least 20 people died, most of them hit by fallen trees
and electric poles, and five others were missing, the agency
said. The number of deaths may rise, with government officials
citing new reports of casualties.
Officials said more than half a million people were affected
by the typhoon, including some in the central Philippines. The
area is still recovering from Haiyan, one of the biggest
cyclones known to have made landfall anywhere. Haiyan killed
more than 6,100 in the central provinces in November, many in
tsunami-like sea surges, and made millions homeless.
(Reporting by Rosemarie Francisco; Editing by Richard Pullin)