A resident carries a tank of liquified petroleum gas as he negotiates a flooded area while Typhoon Rammasun nears suburban Quezon city, Philippines on Wednesday, July 16, 2014.
Typhoon Rammasun is pulling away from the Philippines, heading for a second and third landfall in Hainan, China and Hanoi, Vietnam, after menacing the northern Philippines for two days. The storm, which was known as Glenda in the Philippines, caused widespread damage and killed at least 12 people after making landfall near Sorsogon, Philippines, on the southeastern part of Luzon Island, on Tuesday afternoon local time.
It came ashore as a Category 3 storm on the Saffir Simpson Hurricane Scale, with maximum sustained winds of about 125 miles per hour, and maintained that intensity as it roared northwestward, hop-scotching across mountainous areas in Luzon toward the low-lying, crowded Philippine capital of Manila.
Luckily for Manila residents, the storm moved just far enough south of the city to spare it of the most ferocious winds and storm surge, which were located in the ring of thunderstorms known as the "eyewall" around the storm's center.
Nonetheless, strong winds knocked out power and damaged city buildings, and heavy rains caused flooding in and around Manila. The storm's winds also damaged a parked Singapore Airlines Boeing 777 at Manila International Airport after winds pushed it against a jet bridge. A fire volunteer died when he was hit by a block of concrete while hauling down a Philippine flag in suburban Pasig city, according to Francis Tolentino, chairman of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority.
Three fishermen were reported missing in Catanduanes, near Albay province, where Rammasun made landfall late Tuesday.
More than 370,000 people moved from high-risk villages to emergency shelters in six provinces, perhaps moved to act after the high death toll last year when Super Typhoon Haiyan hit Tacloban, Philippines, killing more than 6,300. In a shantytown at the edge of Manila Bay, hundreds fled when strong wind tore tin roofs. Most were drenched before they reached an evacuation center with the help of emergency workers.
Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada said he was relieved there were no reported deaths after the typhoon sideswiped his city. Had the storm moved about 30 miles further north, it would have become one of the strongest — if not the strongest — to score a direct hit on this vulnerable metropolis.
"It was like a drill," Estrada said. "We hauled people away from dangerous seaside areas, whether they liked it or not."
The lack of immediate reports from communities that lost power, including rural areas in southeastern Luzon, means the death and damage toll is likely to rise.
Polangui Mayor Cherilie Mella Sampal said 10,000 of the 80,000 residents in Albay town, about 340 kilometers (210 miles) southeast of Manila, left homes before the typhoon struck Tuesday. Sampal said she saw the wind topple electric posts and lift roofs off houses.
Sampal said residents were worried after witnessing Haiyan's horrific aftermath in the central Philippines last November. At least 6,300 people died and more than 1,000 were left missing.
"We're used to and prepared for calamities," Sampal said. "But when people heard that the eye of the typhoon will hit the province, they feared we may end up like the victims" of Haiyan.
Rammasun is a Thai word meaning "god of thunder."
Forecasters at the Joint Typhoon Warning Center, which is operated by the U.S. Navy and Air Force, are calling for the storm to continue moving away from the Philippines on Wednesday, toward a second landfall in China's Hainan Island on Friday, and a third landfall near Hanoi, Vietnam on Saturday. The warm waters and relatively light upper level winds above the South China Sea will give Rammasun another opportunity to intensify, with forecasts calling for it to reach Category 2 or 3 intensity once again before its next landfall.
It is possible, although not likely, that the storm will attain a higher intensity than that, before impacting Hainan Island, which has a population of nearly nine million. In general, forecasts of storm intensity have less skill than forecasts of storm track. For example, Rammasun was originally expected to reach the Philippines as a Category 1 storm, but instead roared ashore as a strong Category 3 storm, capable of causing far more damage.
This story includes reporting from the Associated Press
Tags: CLIMATE, HAINAN, HANOI, TROPICAL WEATHER, TYPHOON, TYPHOON GLENDA, TYPHOON RAMMASUN, US & World, WORLD