by AFP/ pic by AFP
MANILA – Tens of thousands of people were sheltering in evacuation centres as powerful Typhoon Kammuri barreled towards the Philippines, threatening plans for the Southeast Asian Games events near the capital Manila.
Kammuri is expected to make landfall late Monday or early Tuesday in the nation’s east with intense rains and potent wind gusts of up to 185 kilometres (115 miles) per hour, 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, which is 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,” Mark Timbal, spokesman for the national disaster agency, told AFP.
“We have preemptively evacuated people in areas that are in the storm’s direct path.”
The weather bureau also warned of rain-induced landslides and possible storm surges of up to three meters (10 feet) which could hit coastal areas in the nation’s east.
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.
The country’s deadliest cyclone on record was Super Typhoon Haiyan, which left more than 7,300 people dead or missing in 2013.
Games plagued by build-up woes
Kammuri is already snarling plans for the SEA Games, which opened Saturday for thousands of athletes from the region and is set to run through to December 11 in and around Manila.
Windsurfing was halted as a precaution and triathlon events were held earlier than scheduled.
Organisers told reporters Monday that each sport is overseen by delegates and ultimately they would make the call on any possible cancellations or rescheduling.
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, which has been done, the competition continues if necessary but without spectators,” he said.
The storm is the latest trouble for the Games, which saw a series of transport snafus and a rush of last-minute construction ahead of the opening.
This year’s Games in Clark, Manila and Subic are already particularly complex, with a record 56 sports across dozens of venues that are in some cases hours apart by car.
Around 8,750 athletes and team officials are expected at this year’s 30th edition – the biggest ever – along with another 12,000 volunteers. Organisers hope more than 500 million viewers will tune in on TV by the end of the competition on Dec 11.
The Philippines have made a strong start to the Games, rising to the top of the medal table with over 50 in total, ahead of Vietnam in second and Thailand in third.
The host nation added to their haul of gold medals on Monday with wins in downhill mountain biking and stick-wielding martial art arnis, while claiming a silver in the rescheduled men’s duathlon event in Subic.
A glitzy dancesport competition in Clark on Sunday saw the Philippines pick up 10 golds.