The Philippines set to work clearing debris, reconnecting power and rebuilding flattened houses on Thursday after a typhoon swept across the country killing 38 people, with at least eight missing, rescue officials said.

The storm destroyed about 7,000 houses and damaged 19,000, authorities said. More than 530,000 people had taken refuge in evacuation centres, according to official figures.

Typhoon Rammasun, the strongest storm to hit the Philippines this year, was heading towards China after cutting a path across the main island of Luzon, shutting down the capital and knocking down trees and power lines, causing widespread blackouts.

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A woman naps inside an evacuation center after strong winds brought by Typhoon Rammasun battered the bay area of Manila Wednesday. (Romeo Ranoco/Reuters)

Heavy rains and landslides over the past week have killed at least 45 people in southern China and left 21 others missing, the country's Ministry of Civil Affairs and an official said Thursday.

Southern China was also bracing for the arrival of Typhoon Rammasun around midday Friday, with wind gusts expected to surpass 140 kilometres per hour.

In the Philippines, residents in the town of Noveleta in Cavite province, south of Manila, began work on rebuilding after the typhoon's 185 km/h  winds damaged houses, toppled power lines and caused major blackouts.

"We have always been preparing for typhoons, but the problem with that is it's caused by nature, so here we are, we got damaged electrical posts and houses," said village official Rut Samartino.

Businesses were affected due to the lack of power and many residents queued up at mobile stations to charge their phones.

Schools closed

The provincial government in Cavite on Luzon island said at least five people are dead and more than 1,200 families have been displaced by the typhoon, prompting officials to declare a state of calamity in the province.

Most schools remained closed in the capital and southern Luzon, the most densely populated part of the country with about 17 million people. Power had been restored to just over half of the Luzon grid, a transmission agency official said.

Tropical Storm Risk, which monitors cyclones, downgraded Rammasun to a Category 1 storm on a scale of one to five as it headed northwest towards China.

But it predicted it would gain in strength to Category 2 within 24 hours, picking up energy from the warm sea as it headed in the direction of Hainan.

Residents in central Philippines were also affected. The area is still recovering from Haiyan, one of the biggest cyclones known to have made landfall anywhere, which killed more than 6,100 in November and made millions homeless.

The Philippines sees an average of 20 typhoons annually, mostly during the onset of the rainy season from June to October.

With files from The Associated Press