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Typhoon shuts Manila as flood cripples cities

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The Philippines shut financial markets and government offices on Thursday, closed ports and airports and halted trains as Typhoon Vamco barrelled into the country's main island of Luzon, causing widespread flooding. At least two people died.

[MANILA] The Philippines shut financial markets and government offices on Thursday, closed ports and airports and halted trains as Typhoon Vamco barrelled into the country's main island of Luzon, causing widespread flooding. At least two people died.

Rescue teams have been deployed and aid will reach those in need, President Rodrigo Duterte said in televised remarks Thursday, as local media reported submerged homes and people calling for help from rising waters.

"The government will not leave anybody behind," Mr Duterte said. "We will get through this crisis." Mayor Marcelino Teodoro of Marikina, a city in Metro Manila that's prone to flooding when a nearby river overflows, said about 40,000 homes were fully or partially submerged. Gates of several dams in Luzon have been opened, while five river basins are on flood watch, the Philippine weather bureau said.

Violent winds overnight ripped roofs off houses and toppled trees, cutting power to 2.5 million homes as Typhoon Vamco - called Ulysses locally - made landfall Wednesday evening in Quezon province and traversed the rest of Luzon island Thursday morning.

The 21st storm to hit the Philippines this year, Vamco has moved away from Luzon and over the South China Sea, with winds as fast as 130km per hour near the centre and gusts as strong as 160km per hour, according to the local weather bureau.

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The typhoon is forecast to exit Philippine territory on Friday morning, and could intensify as it heads for Vietnam. The weather bureau at 2 pm lowered the storm warning in the capital region to level two from level three, in a five-scale alert.

Two elderly men were found dead in Camarines Norte province, where three others are missing, authorities said. Almost 190,000 people have fled their homes in the Bicol region of Luzon, which is still reeling from recent storms.

An average of 20 typhoons pass through the Philippines each year, which can complicate the nation's fight against the coronavirus as thousands of people are evacuated from storm-hit areas.

In 2013, Super Typhoon Haiyan killed more than 6,300 in the Southeast Asian nation. In 2009, Typhoon Ketsana killed more than 400 people and caused US$227 million of damage to infrastructure and agriculture after dumping a month's worth of rain within six hours.

Vamco is lashing regions already battered about two weeks ago by Super Typhoon Goni, which killed at least 25 people and caused 18 billion pesos in damage. In remarks Thursday to a Southeast Asian leaders' summit, Mr Duterte said recent typhoons "left a trail of destruction" that sets back the nation's development.

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