Schools were closed in the northern Philippines on Tuesday – a day after many resumed in-person classes for the first time since Covid-19 hit – as torrential rain and strong winds battered the archipelago’s main island.
Strong tropical storm Ma-on slammed into Luzon’s northeastern coast around mid-morning, battering the mostly agricultural region with gusts of up to 185 kilometers (115 miles) per hour, the state weather service said.
Two people were injured by falling trees in the mountainous province of Cagayan, where heavy rain caused a major river and its tributaries to swell overnight, provincial spokesman Rueli Rasping said.
“Now we are suffering from strong wind and heavy rain. The Cagayan River is rising,” Rasping told AFP.
The provincial capital of Tuguegarao received 98 millimeters (3.9 inches) of “torrential” rain in the three hours after the storm made landfall, a state weather bureau official told AFP.
Ma-on was expected to move in a northwesterly direction across the country and head over the South China Sea late Tuesday or early Wednesday.
Some low-lying areas of the capital, Manila, were in knee-deep flooding as the storm intensified the southwest monsoon.
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has suspended classes and work in government offices in the capital region and surrounding provinces until Wednesday, his spokeswoman said.
He carried out similar orders issued by the provinces on Ma-on’s route.
The Philippines, which is among the most vulnerable countries to the effects of climate change, is exposed to an average of 20 storms each year.
Ma-on was the first major storm since April, when Tropical Storm Megi triggered landslides and floods 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.