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One dead, thousands displaced in Philippines as storm nears

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Kammuri has gained strength, now packing maximum winds of 165km per hour near the centre and gusts of up to 230 kph, the nation’s weather bureau said.

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Villagers carry belongings as they are evacuated in anticipation of an approaching typhoon in Legaspi city, Albay province

[MANILA] At least one person has died in the Philippines and tens of thousands have been evacuated as Typhoon Kammuri moved closer to the main Luzon island.

Kammuri has gained strength, now packing maximum winds of 165km per hour near the centre and gusts of up to 230 kph, the nation’s weather bureau said. The 20th storm to enter the Philippines this year is following a track similar to typhoon Rammasun in July 2014, which killed 106 people and damaged properties worth US$759 million.

More than 50 areas are on storm signal 3, the third-highest in a five-level warning system, before it hits land over Bicol region as early as Monday evening. Under signal 3, wind of as much as 170 kph - strong enough to topple coconut trees and destroy rice and corn crops - may be expected in 18 hours.

Metro Manila and nearly a hundred other areas in Luzon and Visayas are under signal 2. Heavy rains and winds due to the typhoon are expected to be felt in the capital starting Tuesday morning, prompting class suspensions.

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More than 217,000 people have fled their homes in Bicol, many of them staying in evacuation centers, authorities said.

The Manila airport will be shut from 11 am to 11 pm on Tuesday in preparation for expected onslaught of Kammuri, the Transportation Department said. Philippine Airlines Inc, Cebu Air Inc and AirAsia Group Bhd have suspended more than 380 flights, according to the airport authority’s Facebook page.

The storm can have a “high humanitarian impact,” the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System said on its website, putting a population of 9.6 million people at risk.

Kammuri already snarled some plans for the SEA Games, which opened Saturday for thousands of athletes from the region and is set to run through to Dec 11 in and around Manila.

Windsurfing was halted as a precaution and triathlon events were held earlier than scheduled.

Ramon Suzara, the chief operating officer of the organising committee, said contingency plans were in place for bad weather, but the duration of the Games would not be extended.

"Everything is set," Mr Suzara told reporters. "For contingency, all venues, all competition managers, technical delegates are ready."

The storm is the latest trouble for the Games, which saw a series of transport hiccups and a rush of last-minute construction ahead of the opening.

This year's Games in Clark, Manila and Subic are already particularly complex, with a record 56 sports across dozens of venues that are in some cases hours apart by car.

BLOOMBERG,AFP