Philippines typhoon shifts; 1 dead

MANILA - At least one person was killed and hundreds of thousands sheltered in evacuation centres as ferocious winds from Typhoon Rammasun smashed large parts of the Philippines, authorities said, with the nation's capital hit on Wednesday.

Wind gusts of up to 250 kilometres (155 miles) an hour ripped down trees, tore roofs off houses and overturned cars after Rammasun swept in from the Pacific Ocean on Tuesday night and hit the archipelago's eastern islands.

"Roofing sheets are flying off the tops of houses here... the wind is whistling," Joey Salceda, the governor of Albay province in the eastern Bicol region said over ABS-CBN television on Tuesday night.

One woman was killed on neighbouring Samar island on Tuesday night when she was hit by an electricity post, the spokeswoman of the government's disaster management council, Mina Marasigan, told AFP.

Three fishermen in the east were also reported missing.

With the typhoon still passing over the Philippines and many areas without electricity, the scale of the damage and potential number of fatalities was impossible to determine.

The eye of the storm just missed Manila, home to more than 12 million people, but giant winds still caused chaos in the city.

Power in many areas, including the business district of Makati, was cut just after dawn as branches were torn off trees and electricity lines snapped.

All government offices and schools were closed in Manila on Wednesday, with authorities urging people to stay indoors.

Across the country, about 450,000 people had fled their homes and sheltered in evacuation centres, according to Social Welfare Minister Corazon Soliman.

Rammasun, which is Thai for "God of Thunder", was expected to move out into the South China Sea on Wednesday afternoon, then track towards southern China, according to the national weather service.

The Philippines is hit by about 20 major storms a year, many of them deadly. The Southeast Asian archipelago is often the first major landmass to be struck after storms build above the warm Pacific Ocean waters.

In November Super Typhoon Haiyan unleashed seven-metre (23-foot) high storm surges that devastated Samar and neighbouring Leyte island, killing up to 7,300 people in one of the nation's worst natural disasters.

Rammasun was the first typhoon to make landfall since this year's rainy season began in June.

With the disaster of Haiyan still haunting the nation, President Benigno Aquino stressed on Tuesday night that people in Rammasun's path must be made to understand the dangers facing them.

"The objective has to be (to) minimise the casualties and the hardship of our people," he told civil defence officials.

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