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Typhoon spares Manila, leaves 7 dead elsewhere

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Manila, July 16 (AP) - Typhoon Rammasun left at least seven people dead and knocked out power in many areas but it spared the Philippine capital, Manila, and densely populated northern provinces from being directly battered Wednesday when its fierce wind shifted slightly away, officials said.

Still, the typhoon's 150-kilometer (93-mile) wind and blinding 185-kph (115-mph) gusts, brought down trees, electric posts and ripped off roofs across the capital of 12 million people where government offices and schools were closed. More than 370,000 people moved from high-risk villages to emergency shelters in six provinces.

In a shantytown at the edge of Manila Bay, hundreds fled when strong wind tore tin roofs off their shanties. Most were drenched by the rain before they reached an evacuation center with the help of firemen and rescue personnel.

Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada said he was relieved there were no reported deaths after the typhoon sideswiped his city although its wind still downed trees and damaged seaside shanties, prompting more than 1,000 residents to evacuate.

"It was like a drill," he said. "We hauled people away from dangerous seaside areas, whether they liked it or not."

Elsewhere, a woman died after being hit by a fallen electric post in Northern Samar province and two men, including one traveling on a motorcycle, were separately pinned to death by falling trees in two other provinces. Three members of a family were killed when a wall collapsed on them in Lucena city, southeast of Manila and an 11-month-old boy died after being hit by a wall in a house in Cavite province near the capital, officials said.

Three fishermen have been reported missing in Catanduanes, near Albay province, where Rammasun made landfall late Tuesday.

There were no immediate estimates of the damage in communities that lost power and telephone connections while being pummeled by the wind and rain.

With last year's massive devastation and deaths from Typhoon Haiyan still in many people's mind, officials said 373,000 people readily evacuated after being told of the danger.

Polangui Mayor Cherilie Mella Sampal said 10,000 of the 80,000 residents in her town in Albay, about 340 kilometers (210 miles) southeast of Manila, were evacuated before the typhoon struck Tuesday. Sampal said she saw the wind topple electric posts and lift roofs off houses.

Sampal said residents were worried after witnessing Haiyan's horrific aftermath in the central Philippines last November.

"We're used to and prepared for calamities," Sampal told The Associated Press by cellphone. "But when people heard that the eye of the typhoon will hit the province, they feared we may end up like the victims of Yolanda," she said, referring to the local name of Haiyan.

Haiyan's strong winds and tsunami-like storm surges flattened towns, leaving at least 6,300 people dead and more than 1,000 missing.

Rammasun, the Thai term for god of thunder, is the seventh storm to batter the Philippines this year. About 20 typhoons and storm lash the archipelago on the western edge of the Pacific each year, making it one of the world's most disaster-prone countries.

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