Hundreds of people return home in Philippines as typhoon weakens

Stranded passengers take a break near a ticketing booth at a port in Marinduque Island, central Philippines April 4, 2015 after ferry services were stopped in preparation for an approaching storm. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco

By Manuel Mogato MANILA (Reuters) - Hundreds of people in the north of the main Philippine island of Luzon left evacuation centers and returned home on Sunday after a typhoon weakened significantly as it made landfall, although officials still warned of heavy rain and rough seas. Once described as super typhoon Maysak as it bore down on the Philippines in recent days, the storm was carrying winds of 55 km ph (35 mph) and was rated as a tropical depression as it made landfall on Sunday morning. "We thank God," said Alexander Pama, executive director of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council. "From a super typhoon a week ago, we now have a tropical depression. We are spared once more from a disaster." Pama said no reports of casualties had been received as residents in coastal towns in the Luzon provinces of Isabela and Aurora emerged from shelters to return home. However, he warned people in low-lying areas and near mountain slopes to remain vigilant because the storm could still bring heavy rains, flash floods and landslides. Fishing boats and small ferries were still prohibited from returning to sea. While there were still some travel restrictions, the weakening of the storm was generally good news as millions of Filipinos began returning to the capital from beaches and mountain resorts after the four-day Easter holiday. Maysak, which carried winds of about 250 kph (155 mph) at its peak, killed nine people as it barreled through the sparsely populated Federated States of Micronesia east of the Philippines, smashing houses and destroying crops. (Editing by Paul Tait)