Millions without power after typhoon hits Philippines

Millions without power after typhoon hits Philippines
A powerline post destroyed by strong winds at the height of Supertyphoon Glenda in Noveleta, Cavite. Photo: Edwin Bacasmas, PDI/ANN

MANILA - Millions of people in the Philippines endured a second sweltering day without power on Thursday after a ferocious typhoon paralysed the capital and wrecked flimsy rural homes, claiming at least 40 lives.

Utility crews scrambled to repair thousands of toppled power pylons as well as transmission lines as the death toll from Typhoon Rammasun, the first major storm of the Southeast Asian archipelago's rainy season, inched up.

"It will take two weeks for power to normalise to pre-typhoon level for everyone," Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla told reporters, conceding that progress in restoration work was slow.

Meanwhile the authorities expressed frustration amid signs many of those who died had ignored government warnings about the dangers posed by the typhoon, one of 20 forecast to hit the Asian archipelago this year.

"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 told reporters.

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, according to the council's data.

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.

The latest two people reported to have died were a woman whose shanty home was blown away, while a man earlier reported as missing had been found dead, Pama's department said.

Rammasun, a Thai word for "Thunder God", swept in off the Pacific Ocean on Tuesday night, bringing wind gusts of up to 160 kilometres (100 miles) an hour across land to Manila and other heavily populated northern regions.

The Philippines is often the first major landmass to be struck after storms build above the warm Pacific waters.

"It really scrambled whole towns, blowing down houses and toppling power lines," the chairman of the Philippine Red Cross, Richard Gordon, told AFP.

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.

The stock exchange and government offices re-opened on Thursday, a day after being shut down by high winds, but many schools remained closed partly because of the power problems.

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