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Typhoon Kammuri forces cancellation, reschedule of SEA Games events

Rains cover the city as strong winds batter houses and buildings lying on the path of Typhoon Mangkhut as it makes landfall on September 15, 2018 in Tuguegarao city, northern Philippines. (Photo by Jes Aznar/Getty Images)

A powerful typhoon coming in from the Pacific Ocean has forced organisers to cancel or reschedule some Southeast Asian Games events, shortly before Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte and boxing star Manny Pacquiao launched the Games with an opening ceremony yesterday (Sunday).

Forecasters expect Typhoon Kammuri – known locally as ‘Typhoon Tisoy’ – to reach the Philippines on Monday evening or Tuesday morning, causing gusts of 170km/h and maximum sustained winds of 140km/h. Tropical Cyclone Warning Signal Number 3 – out of the country’s domestic five-level scale – has been raised by Philippines authorities in several parts of the country, while Signal No. 2 has been raised in capital Manila. Weather conditions have forced schools in the country to close today (Monday), and Philippines-based airlines Cebu Pacific has also cancelled a number of flights.

Kammuri is the 20th tropical cyclone to hit the Philippines this year, and follows the same path as typhoon Rammasun in July 2014, which killed 106 people in the Philippines and damaged properties worth ₱38.6bn ($761m/€686m), according to the US Navy and Air Force’s Joing Typhoon Warning Centre.

The Philippines’ weather bureau said on its website: “The intensification of Kammuri into a super typhoon is less likely at this time but not ruled out.”

Outdoor events in Subic, which is on the west coast of Luzon island where the 30th Southeast Asian games are held, were the first to be affected by Kammuri. Ramon Agregado, the Philippines Southeast Asian Games Organising Committee’s (PHISGOC) head of the Subic cluster of venues said to AFP: “The windsurfing has been cancelled until we have a more accurate picture of the weather.”

The women’s triathlon was brought forward to Sunday, he added, “so we could take advantage of the good weather”. Duathlon events scheduled for tomorrow (Tuesday) will now take place today (Monday) instead.

The SEA Games, a regional sporting event where 8,750 athletics are expected to participate, will run through till December 11. Kammuri is forecast to hit land on Tuesday, and will cut though Luzon, causing heavy rain on SEA Games venues, before moving away from the Philippines on Wednesday.

Most of the event venues are indoor, but the newly-built track-and-field stadium in New Clark City does not have a retractable roof. The aquatic centre at the same location, where all swimming and diving events are hosted, is exposed on three sides. Football events in Manila, and the rest of the outdoor events in the Subic region could also be affected, which include sailing, canoe and kayak races, beach volleyball and the modern pentathlon.

PHISGOC said late last week that it was ready to put contingency plans in place, with executive director Tom Carrasco saying to local media: “We are prepared for that…There are sports where rains don’t matter, but we will make contingency plans just in case the weather gets worse.”

“We have breaks or rest days that we can use. But definitely, the Games won’t go beyond December 11.”

The build-up to the SEA Games has been rife with issues, with delays in getting arriving teams to their accommodation, unfinished venues, and inadequate food for athletes and guests reported across mainstream and social media.

The logistical problems during the first couple of days of the Southeast Asian Games have angered President Duterte, who said to local media last weekend: “I’m really apologising for the country. The other nations should know while they are still here that the government is not happy.”

“You cannot just cast away all these – the discomfort, the sufferings of the athletes, sleeping on the floors, getting hungry”, he said. “To the countries that sent them here, it’s a big deal.”

He has also instructed PHISGOC to release at least 10,000 complimentary tickets to many of the 56 sports and closing ceremony at the SEA Games to locals, to increase local accessibility and interest in the event.