MANILA - The death toll from the first typhoon of the Philippines' rainy season climbed to at least 38 on Thursday, authorities said, as millions in the capital and elsewhere endured a second day without power.
Ferocious winds from Typhoon Rammasun tore roofs off houses, overturned cars and ripped down electricity lines in the megacity of Manila, as well as remote fishing villages hundreds of kilometres away.
"I thought I was going to die. I went out to look for gasoline in case we needed to evacuate, but it was a mistake," said tricycle driver Pedro Rojas, 35, as he nursed a cut head while sheltering at a town hall on the outskirts of Manila.
"My tricycle rolled over twice after I slammed into sheets of rain. It was like hitting a wall... huge tin roofings were flying everywhere."
Rammasun, which in Thai means "God of Thunder", tore in from the Pacific Ocean with wind gusts of about 250 kilometres an hour and smashed into poor fishing communities in the east of the archipelago on Tuesday night.
It weakened slightly as it cut across the main island of Luzon and exited into the South China Sea on Wednesday afternoon. Weather forecasters warned it may pick up strength again as it tracks towards southern China.
The eye of the storm just missed Manila, home to more than 12 million people, but the huge winds and bursts of heavy rain brought the city to a virtual standstill.
Power in Manila and neighbouring provinces was cut in the morning as branches were torn off trees and electricity lines snapped.
Manila's power distributor, Meralco, said 5.3 million homes had lost electricity in the capital and surrounding provinces, and that it could be days before services were restored to some areas.
Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla urged people to buy generators and stock up on fuel, as millions of people faced a hot and humid night without fans or air-conditioners.
"The extent of the damage is huge," Petilla said.
The winds also tore down shanty homes in slum areas where hundreds of thousands of people live along Manila Bay.
"Our house was destroyed and we lost many of our belongings," housewife Dayang Bansuan said as she rested in a school that had been turned into an evacuation centre for people living in the coastal Manila slums.
"We fled our home just before dawn when the water started rising up to our ankles. I was really frightened, they (neighbours) were saying the winds were getting stronger. They were telling us to evacuate."