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Half-million in Philippines flee Typhoon Rammasun

| Wednesday, July 16, 2014, 6:18 p.m.

MANILA — A typhoon blew out of the northern Philippines on Wednesday, having caused at least 20 deaths, knocked out power in entire provinces, damaged two parked jetliners and forced nearly half a million people to flee from its lethal wind and rain, officials said.

The eye of Typhoon Rammasun made a late shift away from Manila, but its peak wind of 93 mph and gusts as high as 115 mph forced down trees and electric posts and ripped off roofs across the capital of 12 million people that largely shut down before the deluge.

Although Rammasun packed far less power than Typhoon Haiyan, haunting memories of last year's horrific storm devastation prompted many villagers to move rapidly 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 shanties. Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada said his city staged anti-disaster drills two weeks ago to prevent deaths during a catastrophe, and he was relieved that only a few residents suffered injuries.

Although the low toll has been attributed to the typhoon skipping Manila, Estrada believed the public's greater awareness of anti-disaster maneuvers saved many lives. He acknowledged that the wind and rain weren't as deadly as many feared and said it was a good time for people to hone survival skills.

“It was like a drill,” Estrada said.

Officials reported at least 20 deaths elsewhere, mostly people pinned by falling trees and electrical posts. A fire volunteer died when he was hit by a block of concrete while hauling down a Philippine flag in suburban Pasig city, said 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.

At Manila's international airport, the left wing of a Singapore Airlines Boeing 777 was damaged when strong gusts pushed it against a bridge passageway, manager Angel Honrado said. No one was injured.

Another parked jetliner reportedly had minor damage.

There were no estimates of damage in communities that lost power and telephone connections. Polangui Mayor Cherilie Mella Sampal said 10,000 of the 80,000 residents in her town abandoned their homes before the typhoon.

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