Philippines braces for typhoon, SEA Games opening ceremony cancelled

AFP . Clark, Philippines | Update:

Philippines` boxing champion Manny Pacquiao is seen on a pre-recorded video as he leads the lighting of the cauldron shown during the opening ceremony of the SEA Games (Southeast Asian Games) at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan province, north of Manila on 30 November 2019. Photo: AFPThe Philippines has begun evacuating thousands of people, local officials said Sunday, as a powerful typhoon rumbling in from the Pacific forced Southeast Asian Games organisers to cancel or reschedule some events. 

The storm entered Philippine territory Saturday evening, shortly before president Rodrigo Duterte and boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao launched the Games with a colourful opening ceremony.

Forecasters expect Typhoon Kammuri to make landfall Monday evening or Tuesday morning, packing gusts of 170 kilometres (105 miles) per hour and maximum sustained winds of 140 kph.

This year's Games in Clark, Manila and Subic are already particularly complex, with a record 56 sports across dozens of venues that are in some cases hours apart by car.

Outdoor events in Subic -- on the west coast of the main island of Luzon in the country's north -- were the first to be affected by Kammuri.

"The windsurfing has been cancelled until we have a more accurate picture of the weather," Ramon Agregado, organising committee chief for Subic, told AFP.

The women's triathlon event was brought forward to Sunday, Agregado said, "so we could take advantage of the good weather".

Duathlon events scheduled for Tuesday will now take place on Monday.

Agregado said that venues will not be changed, but in the event of bad weather the equipment will be taken down and put back together once events are rescheduled.

Evacuation centres
Some local government offices in central Bicol region urged people to begin leaving their homes on Saturday night.

By Sunday afternoon, more than 3,000 people were in evacuation centres, mostly in schools and gymnasiums in Camarines Norte, the provincial disaster management office said.

Most of them live in coastal areas and low-lying places where flash floods and landslides are possible due to heavy rains that will be brought by the typhoon.

No mandatory evacuation has been ordered yet, the disaster management office said.

School classes and government offices in some towns will be closed Monday and Tuesday in anticipation of the heavy rains.

The Philippines last hosted the Games in 2005, and history is on their side in their quest to win the medal count.

Seven of the last 11 SEA Games hosts have topped the table, reflecting the tradition of rewriting the sporting programme to suit local strengths.

The hosts got off to a flying start on Sunday, with world champion Carlos Yulo winning the men's artistic gymnastics all-around event, Agatha Wong taking the women's triathlon title and competitive dancing teams picking up 10 golds.

By the evening the home nation topped the table with more than 35 medals.

Around 8,750 athletes and team officials are expected at this year's 30th edition -- the biggest ever -- along with another 12,000 volunteers. Organisers hope more than 500 million viewers will tune in on TV by the end of competition on December 11.

In an eclectic programme, Olympic sports like swimming and athletics sit side-by-side with regional favourites such as martial arts, and this year athletes will even battle an obstacle race course in Manila.

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