Storm forces Philippine schools to shut day after reopening

Schools were ordered shut across the northern Philippines Tuesday — a day after many resumed in-person learning for the first time since COVID-19 hit — as torrential rain and strong winds pounded the main island of the archipelago.

Severe tropical storm Ma-on struck the northeast coast of Luzon around mid-morning, raking the largely agricultural region with gusts of up to 185 kilometres (115 miles) an hour, the state weather service said.

Two people were injured by falling trees in the mountainous province of Cagayan where intense rain caused the main river and its tributaries to swell overnight, provincial disaster official Ruelie Rasping said.

“We’re currently being hit by strong winds and heavy rain. The Cagayan river is rising,” Rasping told AFP.

The provincial capital Tuguegarao was drenched with 98 millimeters (3.9 inches) of “torrential” rain over a three-hour period after the storm made landfall, an official at the state weather bureau told AFP.

Ma-on was expected to sweep in a northwest direction across the country and head out over the South China Sea late Tuesday or early Wednesday.

Some low-lying areas of the capital Manila were left in knee-deep floodwater, as the storm intensified the southwest monsoon.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr suspended classes and work in government offices in the national capital region and surrounding provinces until Wednesday, his spokeswoman said.

It followed similar orders issued by provinces in Ma-on’s path.

The Philippines, ranked among the most vulnerable nations to the impacts of climate change, is hit by an average of 20 storms every year.

Ma-on was the first significant one since April when tropical storm Megi unleashed landslides and flooding that killed more than 200 people mostly on the central island of Leyte.

Ma-on struck a day after the Philippines reopened classrooms for face-to-face lessons, more than two years after the pandemic hit.

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