Typhoon Glenda leaves at least 20 dead, 5 missing

Posted at 07/16/14 7:27 PM

MANILA (2nd UPDATE) - Typhoon Glenda moved to the West Philippine Sea after killing at least 20 people in the Philippines.

State weather bureau PAGASA, in its latest severe weather bulletin issued 5 p.m. Wednesday, said the tropical cyclone was last spotted 160 kilometers west of Zambales and was moving towards Bajo de Masinloc.

Public storm warning signal number 1 remained hoisted in Metro Manila, Laguna, Batangas, northern part of Occidental and Oriental Mindoro, Zambales, Tarlac, Pampanga, Bataan, Bulacan, Rizal, Cavite, Lubang Island, and Pangasinan.

Public storm warning signals elsewhere were lowered.

The typhoon is currently packing maximum sustained winds of 140 kilometers per hour near the center and gustiness of up to 170 kph.

It is moving west-northwest at 24 kph.

PAGASA advised fishing boats and other small seacraft not to venture out into the western seaboard of Luzon.

Trail of destruction

The first typhoon of the Philippines' brutal rainy season shut down the nation's capital on Wednesday, killing at least 20 people across the country and cutting power for millions.

Ferocious winds from Typhoon Glenda (international name 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 kilometers 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."

Falling trees, poles, and walls killed at least 20 people across the northern parts of the Philippines that Rammasun swept over with wind gusts approaching 200 kilometers an hour, authorities said.

The NDRRMC said five of the fatalities are from Quezon, three each from Rizal and Marinduque, two each from Cavite and Camarines Sur, and one each from Bulacan, Zambales, Oriental Mindoro, Occidental Mindoro, and Northern Samar.

"Glenda" also left seven others injured and five missing.

The NDRRMC said the number of casualties could still go up, as more reports from the provinces are verified.

Fatalities are included in the official death toll only after they have been verified by the Health Department or the Philippine National Police.

One of those killed was a rescue worker who died in the capital when a government building collapsed on him, while falling trees killed two elderly people in rural areas of a province neighboring Manila.

'God of Thunder'

Rammasun, which in Thai means "God of Thunder", tore in from the Pacific Ocean with wind gusts of about 250 kilometers 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 neighboring 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.

Homes destroyed

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 center 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."

Across the country, about 350,000 people fled their homes and sheltered in evacuation centers, according to the disaster management council.

The Philippines is hit by about 20 major storms a year, many of them deadly. The Southeast Asian archipelago is often the first major landmass to be struck after storms build above the warm Pacific Ocean waters.

Glenda was the first typhoon to make landfall since this year's rainy season began in June.

It was also the first major storm since Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) devastated the eastern islands of Samar and Leyte in November last year, killing up to 7,300 people in one of the Philippines' worst natural disasters.

Those areas felt only light rain and winds on Tuesday and Wednesday, but that was enough to send panic through some Yolanda survivors who are still struggling to rebuild their communities.

"I feared we were going to relive our nightmare, when we had to swim for our lives," said fisherman Alfredo Cojas, 49, who left his shanty home in the Leyte capital of Tacloban on Tuesday for an evacuation center.

"This typhoon wasn't that strong, but we have a phobia about these things now." - with reports from ANC, Agence France-Presse