Manila’s mayor Honey Lacuna-Pangan has ordered the closure of the city’s cemeteries, where millions had been expected to visit during the extended All Saints’ Day weekend, on Saturday.
The tropical storm, which has maximum sustained winds of 95 kilometres per hour and gusts of up to 130kmh, made multiple landfalls in the eastern Philippines and is expected to reach its peak this weekend.
Airport services and transport have been severely restricted as authorities in the capital brace for the storm.
Airlines have cancelled 116 domestic and international flights to and from Manila international airport, the Philippines’ main gateway. Nearly 7,500 passengers, drivers and cargo helpers and 107 vessels were stranded in ports, the coastguard said.
Residents in the capital’s coastal area were evacuated while classes across all levels were suspended, according to the mayor’s office.
Rescue operations are ongoing in Maguindanao province where the storm has already wreaked havoc since Thursday night.
The Southeast Asian nation’s disaster agency gave a death toll of 72 earlier on Saturday but reduced it to 45 after checking reports from ground staff, including rescue workers searching for 18 missing persons.
Most deaths occurred after people were swept away by rampaging floodwaters and drowned or were hit by debris-filled mudslides. Some areas have recorded their highest ever daily rainfall.
“We are not discounting the possibility of more casualties,” Cyrus Torrena, provincial administrator of Maguindanao, told DZMM radio. “But we pray it does not go up significantly.”
Government agencies were giving aid and food packs to affected families, president Ferdinand Marcos Jr said on Twitter.
The coastguard issued pictures of its rescuers, wading in chest-high brownish floodwaters to reach the elderly and children in Maguindanao. Many of the swamped areas had not been flooded for years.
More than 7,000 people were protectively evacuated away from the path of the storm, which was not expected to strengthen into a typhoon after it blew inland, government forecasters and other officials said.
The Philippines sees an average of 20 tropical storms annually. It is located on the Pacific Ring of Fire, a region along most of the Pacific Ocean rim where many volcanic eruptions and earthquakes occur, making the nation one of the world’s most disaster-prone.
In December, category 5 typhoon Rai ravaged central provinces, leaving 407 dead and more than 1,100 injured.
Additional reporting by agencies