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Wednesday July 16, 2014 MYT 11:33:00 AM
Wednesday July 16, 2014 MYT 12:55:54 PM
A heavy downpour of rain is seen over high-rise buildings as Typhoon Rammasun strikes in Makati, the financial district of Manila, Philippines, 16 July 2014. -EPA
MANILA: Typhoon Rammasun shut down the Philippine capital on Wednesday as authorities said the first major storm of the country's brutal rainy season claimed at least one life and forced hundreds of thousands to evacuate.
Wind gusts of up to 250 kilometres (155 miles) an hour and intense rain caused chaos across the megacity of Manila, as well as remote fishing villages, after Rammasun tore in from the Pacific Ocean on Tuesday night.
"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."
One woman was killed on Samar island in the east of the archipelago on Tuesday night when she was hit by an electricity post, the spokeswoman of the government's disaster management council, Mina Marasigan, told AFP.
Three fishermen in the east were also reported missing.
With the typhoon still passing over the Philippines and many areas without electricity, the scale of the damage and potential number of fatalities was impossible to determine.
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.
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."
Across the country, about 450,000 people had fled their homes and sheltered in evacuation centres, Social Welfare Minister Corazon Soliman said on Tuesday night, with that number expected to have risen on Wednesday.
Rammasun, which is Thai for "God of Thunder", was forecast to move out into the South China Sea on Wednesday afternoon, then track towards southern China, according to the national weather service.
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.
In November Super Typhoon Haiyan unleashed seven-metre (23-foot) high storm surges that devastated Samar and neighbouring Leyte island, killing up to 7,300 people in one of the nation's worst natural disasters.
Rammasun was the first typhoon to make landfall since this year's rainy season began in June.
With the disaster of Haiyan still haunting the nation, President Benigno Aquino stressed on Tuesday night that people in Rammasun's path must be made to understand the dangers facing them.
"The objective has to be (to) minimise the casualties and the hardship of our people," he told civil defence officials. -AFP
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Regional, Typhoon Rammasun, Philippine, Pacific Ocean
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