Typhoon Hagupit strikes Philippines

Storm weakens while claiming lives, destroying homes and flooding coastal communities in central and eastern provinces.

Typhoon Hagupit has killed at least three people, destroyed homes and and flooded coastal communities across the eastern and central Philippines, affecting millions of people.

The storm moved in from the Pacific Ocean and struck remote fishing communities on Samar island on Saturday night, but weakened from 210km to 165km an hour as it continued its path through the country on Sunday.

The wind strength made Hagupit the most powerful storm to hit the Philippines this year, exceeding a typhoon in July that killed more than 100 people.

Weather forecast on Typhoon Hagupit

In a span of just 24 hours, the storm brought 396mm of rain, which is equivalent to half a month of precipitation.

Two people, including a baby girl, died of hypothermia in central Iloilo province at the height of the typhoon, officials said.

Another person died after being hit by a falling tree in the eastern town of Dolores, where the typhoon first made landfall, according to Mar Roxas, interior secretary.

Two women were injured when the tricycle taxi they were riding was struck by a falling tree in central Negros Oriental province.

“Tin roofs are flying off, trees are falling and there is some flooding,” Stephany Uy-Tan, the mayor of Catbalogan, a major city on Samar, told AFP news agency.

According to reports from news agencies and local media, close to a million people had fled to shelters in areas along the path of the typhoon.

So far, the provinces of Albay, Camarines Sur and Masbate have declared emergency.

Al Jazeera’s Andrew Thomas, reporting from the capital Manila, said that the storm had made another landfall in the central island of Masbate, but had slightly weakened as it moved northwest.

Witnesses in Masbate told him that roads had been blocked from typhoon debris, making it difficult to deliver food packages to evacuees.

Lessons of Haiyan

In a statement to Al Jazeera, the UN office in Manila said the humanitarian needs in the Philippines would not be fully known until Hagupit passed over.

Fearful of a repeat of last year when Supertyphoon Haiyan claimed more than 7,350 lives, the government launched a massive evacuation effort to provide shelter to people in the path of Hagupit.

“The government is absolutely determined to do this better,” Al Jazeera’s Thomas said.

Notes from the field

The storm is very powerful right now in the province of Albay. Aside from the strong winds, there’s also heavy rain, and the concern right now is the flooding.

 While the wind may not be as strong compared to Haiyan 13 months ago, the storm is slow moving.

So far, there are zero casualties in in Albay, according to Governor Joey Salcedo, who spoke to Al Jazeera.

Meanwhile, at one evacuation centre in Albay, at least a thousand people, mostly women and children, are packed in a government building with limited facilities. Evacuees, some of them with infants, are sitting on cardboard boxes and are camped in hallways and staircases.

Scott Heidler reporting from Albay Province at 0500 GMT Sunday

Hagupit was forecast to take days to cut across the Philippines, passing over mostly poor central regions, while also bringing heavy rain to densely populated Manila, which is slightly to the north.

Al Jazeera’s Senior Weather Presenter Steff Gaulter said that as of 0700 GMT on Sunday, Hagupit was tracking westwards.

“Unfortunately the storm is moving very slowly and is not expected to clear the Philippines until 18 GMT on Monday,” she said.

“This means that the storm will be over the country for a prolonged period and this will exacerbate the flooding problems.”

Tens of millions of people live in Hagupit’s path, including those in the central Philippines who are still struggling to recover from the devastation of Haiyan, which hit 13 months ago.

As day broke on Sunday, many areas across the eastern Philippines were uncontactable and it was impossible to know how badly they were damaged, Gwendolyn Pang, Red Cross secretary-general, said.

In those that were reachable, residents and officials reported terrifying winds and waves that destroyed homes, although with most people in evacuation centres there were hopes casualties would be few.

In Tacloban, one of the cities worst-hit by Haiyan, palm-thatch temporary houses built by aid agencies for survivors of last year’s typhoon had been torn apart, Jerry Yaokasin, Tacloban’s vice mayor, said.

There was no repeat of the storm surges that did the most damage during Haiyan, known locally as Yolanda.

“There is a collective sigh of relief. The initial assessment is that there are no casualties. We were better prepared after Yolanda, up to 50,000 people were packed in evacuation centres,” he said.

The Philippines endures about 20 major storms a year which, along with regular earthquakes and volcano eruptions, make it one of the world’s most disaster-plagued countries.

A man holds on to a pole in Legazpi in Albay province [AP]
Source : Al Jazeera, News Agencies


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