The Philippine Red Cross said at least 21 people have been killed since a powerful typhoon hit the island nation over the weekend.
Red Cross Secretary-General Gwendolyn Pang said Monday that at least 18 of the victims died on the eastern island of Samar where Typhoon Hagupit made landfall late Saturday, where it tore roofs off buildings and knocked out power in entire coastal provinces.
The latest death toll came as the capital, Manila, braced for the arrival of the storm Tuesday as it continues to slowly move through the Philippines. Hagupit made landfall Monday evening on the resort town of San Juan in Batangas province, about 100 kilometers (60 miles) south of the Philippine capital.
Schools have been suspended, the stock market is closed, many office and government workers have been told to stay at home, and dozens of commercial flights have been canceled.
Now a tropical storm
The storm further weakened Monday and was downgraded from a typhoon to a tropical storm while passing over open water.
Forecasters said Hagupit, which was moving northwesterly at only about 10 kilometers per hour, may take three days to cross the central Philippines.
Authorities said the typhoon does not appear as destructive as last year's Typhoon Haiyan, in part because of a massive operation that evacuated nearly 1 million people from coastal and landslide-prone areas.
However, officials were braced for other damage, fearing the storm's heavy rains could possibly trigger landslides and flash floods.
Typhoon Haiyan killed more than 7,300 people and brought some of the strongest winds ever recorded on land.
Thousands of victims of Haiyan are still living in tents, a year after it took roughly the same path as the current typhoon.
Displaced villagers in the east, where the danger posed by the storm has waned, have been asked to return home from emergency shelters. Authorities will begin a major operation to clear debris and get supplies to people left homeless or without power.
“People are now returning to their homes and cleaning up,” said Arnalyn Bula, a 27-year-old bank employee from Dolores town in Eastern Samar, where Hagupit first made landfall. “But water is scarce, potable drinking water. We received relief goods, which included rice, but no water.”
Some material for this report came from Reuters, AFP and AP.