A powerful typhoon that battered the Philippines on Christmas Day leaving at least four people dead and destroying homes roared over a congested region near Manila on today.
Officials said Typhoon Nock-Ten was slightly weaker but packed still-fierce winds.
It cut power to five provinces at the height of Christmas celebrations and displaced tens of thousands of villagers and travellers in Asia’s largest Catholic nation.
A farmer died after being pinned by a fallen tree in Quezon province and three other villagers, including a couple who were swept by a flash flood, died in Albay province, south-east of Manila, after the typhoon made landfall in Casiguran province on Sunday night, police said.
Nock-Ten, locally known as Nina, then blew westwards across mountainous and island provinces, damaging homes, uprooting trees and knocking down communications.
Although it had weakened, the typhoon still had sustained winds of up to 80mph and gusts of 133mph, government forecasters said, as it blew over the heavily populated provinces of Batangas and Cavite, south of Manila, on Monday morning. It was expected to exit over the South China Sea later in the day.
A cargo ship with an unspecified number of crewmen radioed for help as their vessel started to sink off Batangas, while another ran aground and turned on its side in the province’s Mabini town, the coast guard said.
It said it had sent vessels to rescue the crewmen of both ships.
The storm was one of the strongest to hit the Philippines since Typhoon Haiyan left more than 7,300 people dead or missing and displaced over five million in 2014.
But officials in some provinces found it difficult to convince people to abandon their Christmas celebrations and head for the shelters before the storm hit. Some said they had to impose forced evacuations.
“Some residents just refused to leave their homes even when I warned them that you can face what amounts to a death penalty,” said Cedric Daep, a senior disaster-response official in Albay.
Shopping malls and stores were ordered to close early on Christmas Day to encourage people to remain indoors.
But Mr Daep said: “At the height of the typhoon, many cars were still being driven around and people were out walking. We warned them enough, but we just can’t control their mind.”
Officials in Albay, where more than 150,000 villagers were displaced by the typhoon, declared a “state of calamity” on Sunday to allow faster distribution of emergency funds.
About 20 typhoons and storms lash the Philippines each year. In the past 65 years, seven typhoons have struck the country on Christmas Day, according to the government’s weather agency.
Tens of thousands of villagers, forced to spend Christmas in crowded and powerless emergency shelters, started to return home on Monday to deal with the damage.
“They have left the evacuation centres and we’re seeing the sun again,” Ann Ongjoco, mayor of the town of Guinobatan in Albay, one of five provinces that lost electricity, said by phone.
But she said her town, where more than 17,600 villagers fled to shelters in schools, will not be able to resume the holiday celebrations because of the post-typhoon mess. “Many houses made of light materials were destroyed,” she said.