MANILA, Philippines — A typhoon blew out of the northern Philippines on Wednesday after causing at least 20 deaths, knocking out power in entire provinces, damaging two parked jetliners and forcing nearly half a million people to flee from its lethal wind and rains, officials said.
The eye of Typhoon Rammasun made a late shift away from Manila, but its peak winds of 93 mph and gusts up to 115 mph forced down trees and electric posts and ripped off roofs across the capital of 12 million people that largely shut down ahead of the deluge.
Although Rammasun packed far less power than Typhoon Haiyan, haunting memories of last year's horrific storm devastation prompted many villagers to rapidly move to safety at the prodding of authorities. Of the half a million people affected by Rammasun, more than 423,000 fled to emergency shelters, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.
In a shantytown at the edge of Manila Bay, hundreds of people fled when strong winds started to tear tin roofs off their shanties. Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada said his city staged antidisaster drills two weeks ago precisely to prevent massive deaths during a catastrophe, and he was relieved that only a few residents sustained injuries Wednesday.
While the low human toll has been attributed to the typhoon skipping Manila, Estrada thinks the public's higher awareness of antidisaster maneuvers saved many lives. Officials reported at least 20 deaths elsewhere, mostly people pinned by falling trees and electrical posts.
At Manila's international airport, the left wing of a Singapore Airlines Boeing 777 was damaged after strong gusts pushed it against a bridge passageway, manager Angel Honrado said. One other parked jetliner reportedly sustained minor damage.
Although Rammasun slightly weakened as it scythed across the country's main northern region, it may strengthen over the South China Sea before slamming either Vietnam or southern China, government forecasters said.