Typhoon forces suspension of SEA Games events
Organisers gearing up for storm’s arrival in Philippines, with contingency plans in place
The impending arrival of Typhoon Kammuri led to the suspension and postponement of SEA Games events like windsurfing and canoe-kayak races yesterday, with organisers noting contingency plans are in place for bad weather but also stressing the duration of the Games would not be extended.
The Games, held in the Philippines for the first time since 2005, are taking place in three major clusters around Clark, Manila and Subic and scheduled to end on Dec 11.
There are around 10,000 athletes and officials from 11 Southeast Asian nations, along with another 12,000 volunteers.
Nearly 70,000 people have already fled their homes in the Bicol region in the east of the country.
Police across the Luzon and Visayas provinces as well as national support units and all provincial mobile forces have been placed on full alert by the Philippine National Police.
Typhoon Kammuri has already caused chaos at the SEA Games even before making landfall in the Philippines. Sports like windsurfing, beach volleyball and canoe-kayak racing were yesterday either suspended or postponed, while the triathlon mixed team relay was held two days earlier even as organisers were gearing up for the storm’s arrival.
Kammuri, known locally as Tison, was expected to make landfall by early this morning in the nation’s east with intense rain and potent wind gusts, the local weather bureau said. It also warned of rain-induced landslides and possible storm surges of up to 3m which could hit coastal areas in the east.
Kammuri should then pass close to Manila, home to some 13 million and one of three main clusters for the Games events. The other two are in nearby Clark and Subic Bay.
Nearly 70,000 people have already fled their homes in the Bicol region in the east, where the typhoon was expected to hit first. Police across the Luzon and Visayas provinces as well as national support units and all provincial mobile forces have been placed on full alert by the Philippine National Police.
Organisers yesterday emphasised that participants’ safety is a priority but noted that each sport is overseen by its own technical delegates and that, ultimately, any possible cancellations or rescheduling would be their decision.
Philippines SEA Games Organising Committee chief operating officer Ramon Suzara said contingency plans were in place for bad weather, such as erecting tents at outdoor venues, but stressed that the duration of the Games, which end on Dec 11, would not be extended. Indoor sports like basketball and volleyball can continue “if necessary but without spectators”, he said.
The sailing and windsurfing races, originally scheduled to start yesterday, will begin on Thursday.
Singapore windsurfing (laser) coach James Gray downplayed the delays and told The Straits Times: “Sailors are well practised at having to deal with environmental constraints, whether waiting for wind to arrive or waiting for high winds to dissipate. The team is still in a great position to perform well when the event gets under way.”
National triathlete Bryce Chong took the changes in his stride. He and teammates Herlene Yu, Luke Chua and Emma Middleditch won silver in the mixed team relay yesterday. Chong said: “As an athlete, I always need to be prepared for the worst-case scenarios. I just had to stay calm and make minor changes to the training prior to the race. But the race plan never changed.”
At 8pm last night, conditions were calm in Manila and Clark with clear skies, though precautions were being taken – a giant Christmas tree in Metro Manila was wrapped in red cloth in anticipation of the storm.
The Philippines is hit by an average of 20 storms and typhoons each year, killing hundreds. The country’s deadliest cyclone on record was Super Typhoon Haiyan, which left over 7,300 dead or missing in 2013.
Kammuri is the latest issue for this Games, which saw a series of transport problems and a rush in last-minute construction ahead of last Saturday’s opening ceremony.
The Games – last hosted by the Philippines in 2005 – are complex, with a record 56 sports across dozens of venues that are, in some cases, hours apart by car.
Cebu Air and Philippine Airlines have suspended some domestic flights, while Manila’s international airport will be temporarily closed today. A Singapore National Olympic Council spokesman said some athletes and officials have had their travel itineraries changed and those scheduled to leave Philippines today will remain in their official accommodation until tomorrow.
Around 10,000 athletes and team officials from 11 countries are expected, along with 12,000 volunteers. Organisers have targeted television viewership of 500 million for the 12-day Games.
Speaker of Parliament and Singapore National Olympic Council president Tan Chuan-Jin, who is in the Philippines, said in a Facebook post last night: “We are tracking this (Kammuri) closely to ensure the safety of our athletes. Everything that needs to be done will be carried out... We are not in the main path of this storm. At most we should expect some thunderstorms and winds in our areas.”
Tarpaulins tied down on billboard frames in anticipation of Typhoon Kammuri yesterday in Manila, home to some 13 million and one of three main clusters for the SEA Games events. The typhoon was expected to make landfall late last night or early this morning in the nation’s east.