One dead, thousands displaced as powerful typhoon brushes past the Philippines

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At least one person was killed as a powerful typhoon skirted the Philippines on Monday, dumping heavy rain that flooded dozens of villages and forced tens of thousands to leave their homes.

Typhoon Surigae packed sustained wind speeds of 195 kilometers (121 miles) an hour at its center, about 500 kilometers off the Philippines, and was not expected to make landfall in the disaster-prone archipelago, according to the government weather service.

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But strong winds and heavy rain reached the central region of the Eastern Visayas, where about 66 villages were flooded, the regional civil defense office said.

A 79-year-old man was killed after an uprooted coconut tree fell on him, the office said, adding that another man was missing after failing to return from rough seas.

More than 68,000 people living in the affected region had been evacuated from their homes as a precaution. Many of them were staying in emergency shelters, raising concerns about the spread of the coronavirus.

“(Despite the damage), we are still blessed that it didn’t (make) landfall in the area. Just imagine what would happen then with its strong winds and heavy rains,” civil defense officer Malou Dela Calzada told AFP.

The typhoon was moving slowly in a northwesterly direction off the main island of Luzon and was expected to veer away from the country in the coming days.

The Philippines is hit by an average of 20 storms and typhoons every year, a dangerous and disruptive part of life in the country.

Many of the storms are deadly, and they typically wipe out harvests, homes and infrastructure, keeping millions of people perennially poor.

The country’s deadliest typhoon on record was Super Typhoon Haiyan, which left more than 7,300 people dead or missing in 2013.