Authorities expressed frustration as reports from badly damaged areas filtered in and the death toll from Typhoon Rammasun, the first major storm of the Southeast Asian archipelago’s rainy season, was nearly doubled to 38.
“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 many 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.
Rammasun, a Thai word for “Thunder God”, swept in off the Pacific Ocean on Tuesday night, then brought wind gusts of up to 160 kilometres an hour across land to Manila and other heavily populated northern regions.
“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 cut electricity supplies to nearly all of Manila, a megacity of more than 12 million people, and surrounding urban areas.
Schools and government offices were closed throughout the capital, hundreds of flights suspended and the stock exchange closed.
The stock exchange and government offices re-opened today, but many schools remained closed partly because of the power problems.
The Manila Electric Company (Meralco), the country’s largest power distributor which serves the capital and surrounding areas, said 1.9 million households still did not have power yesterday.
With the temperature in Manila expected to hit 30 degrees Celsius and the air thick with tropical moisture, Meralco could not give any estimate to frustrated residents when power would be restored.