- Thousands flee coastal villages and landslide zones as 130mph Typhoon Hagupit is set to strike the Philippines
- The capital Manila, where 12 million people live, could be in the firing line, the U.S. military warned last night
- Families with young children and babies take refuge in churches and sports stadiums as the storm approaches
- Ports close across the nation and flights are cancelled as the country braces itself for Pacific typhoon to arrive
- Hagupit, Filipino for ‘smash’, is expected to make landfall on the eastern coast of the Philippines late tomorrow
- Huge storm comes just a year after Typhoon Haiyan claimed the lives of more than 7,000 people in the Philippines
More than 600,000 people have fled villages in the Philippines as the country braces itself for Typhoon Haiyan – which is only hours away from the country’s eastern coast.
The military has gone on full alert today as the powerful storm, named Hagupit which means ‘smash’ in Filipino, is expected to hit later this afternoon.
The area is still haunted by Typhoon Haiyan’s massive devastation in November 2013, which claimed the lives of more than 7,000 people.
While it is not expected to reach Haiyan’s unprecedented strengths, forecasters said its maximum sustained winds of 109mph and gusts of 130 mph were strong enough to set off deadly storm surges and landslides and cause heavy damage to communities and agriculture.
A family fleeing their home in the town of Marabot, Samar island, as the strongest typhoon to hit the country since last year closes in
A man throws wood along the shore as strong waves from Typhoon Hagupit lash the eastern coast of the Philippines earlier today
Forecasters say its maximum winds of 109mph and gusts of 130 mph were strong enough to set off deadly storm surges in area. This image, made available by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), shows Typhoon Hagupit as it approaches the Philippines
‘We’re on red alert, so the entire armed forces is being mobilized for this typhoon,’ Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang, head of the Philippines’ 120,000-strong military, told a news conference after discussing last-minute preparations.
Army troops deployed to supermarkets and major roads in provinces in the typhoon’s path to prevent looting and chaos and clear debris, all of which slowed the government’s response last year, Catapang said.
With a whirling band of rain clouds spanning 373 miles, Hagupit has gained speed and was moving westward at 10mph, according to forecasters.
In the central city of Tacloban, where Haiyan’s storm surges killed thousands of people and leveled villages, news of the approaching typhoon rekindled painful memories.
The military have gone on full alert today as powerful storm, named Hagupit which means ‘smash’ in Filipino, is expected to hit this afternoon
Filipino volunteers repack relief goods for residents expected to be affected by typhoon Hagupit in Legazpi city, as residents are evacuated
Fishermen secure a fishing boat as strong winds are expected to batter the region today – a year after devastating Typhoon Haiyan hit
Residents with their belongings climb onto a truck as they evacuate to safer grounds in Tacloban City, before the powerful storm hits
Many residents, including this family, fled to storm shelters, a sports stadium and churches even before authorities urged them to evacuate
A group of fishermen secure their boats while waiting for the incoming typhoon Hagupit at a fishing village in Tanza, North of Manila
Children seek sheleter inside a school building that has been turned into a temporary evacuation centre in a village which was severely damaged by the 2013 Typhoon Haiyan in Ormoc City
Many residents fled to storm shelters, a sports stadium and churches even before authorities urged them to evacuate.
Social welfare secretary Corazon Soliman said: ‘Over 100,000 families are already in evacuation centers. Multiply it by five (people a family), that’s 500,000.’
Mayor of Manila Joseph Estrada added: ‘We have alerted the people of Manila and we’re ready. These typhoons change direction all the time.’
More than 2,000 people were left stranded in the city as ports closed across the nation. Some Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific flights in the south of the nation were shut as the storm closed in.
‘I’m scared,’ said Haiyan survivor Jojo Moro. ‘I’m praying to God not to let another disaster strike us again. We haven’t recovered from the first.’
The 42-year-old businessman, who lost his wife, daughter and mother last year in Tacloban, said he stocked up on sardines, instant noodles, eggs and water.
A satellite image taken from miles above Earth shows the typhoon moving across the Pacific Ocean towards the Philippines
Families sought refuge in churches, town halls and sports stadiums as the typhoon closed in, with Filipinos better prepared for the storm than last year
Coastal villages and areas prone to landslides were left deserted as people made their way to safe zones, such as Tacloban city (pictured)
Children and babies, such as two-month-old Ivan Lecciones (pictured), took shelter in a temporary evacuation centre in a church
A woman prays with rosaries inside a makeshift evacuation centre as the Philippines braces for Typhoon Hagupit to strike
Villagers abandoned houses on the coast as clouds began to form over eastern areas of the Philippines, with residents heading to safer areas inland
A U.N. humanitarian agency spokesman, Denis McClean, said in Geneva that it was one of the largest peacetime evacuations in Philippine history. It also was reminiscent of the evacuation of 1 million people along India’s coastline before Cyclone Phailin hit in October 2013.
Nearly 100 domestic flights have been canceled and inter-island ferry services suspended, stranding thousands of people.
‘We’ve not heard of villagers resisting to be evacuated,’ regional disaster-response director Blanche Gobenciong said. ‘Their trauma is still so fresh.’
In Tacloban, residents stacked sandbags to block floodwaters. One McDonald’s restaurant was closed and boarded up to prevent a repetition of Haiyan’s deluge, which shattered glass panes and doors of business establishments, allowing looting to take place.
Disaster preparations widened after two agencies tracking the typhoon closely — the U.S. military’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center in Hawaii and the Philippine weather agency — predicted different directions for Hagupit.
The U.S. agency said Hagupit may veer northwest after coming inland and sweep past the southern edge of Manila, the capital city of more than 12 million people. The Philippine agency, known by its acronym PAGASA, projected a more southern path.
Forecasts show the typhoon is expected to travel across central Philippines, with some suggesting it could veer north towards Manila
Families left their homes behind, in the knowledge that last year’s typhoon destroyed a million house and left four million people displaced
Thousands were left stranded as ports closed across the nation, with flights in the south of the nation also cancelled as the storm approached
Armed policemen stood guard outside a shopping centre in an attempt to stop people from panic-buying in the lead up to tomorrow’s typhoon
Shelves began to empty as residents of Tacloban city, where thousands of people have been evacuated, stocked up on supplies
People wait for relief goods outside a church after evacuating their homes as the Typhoon, set to hit tomorrow evening, approached
A lone Typhoon Haiyan survivor is seen in a ‘tent city’ near Tacloban city, but most people living there have been evacuated to safer buildings
Families queued up outside town halls as they waited for relief to arrive, with people stocking up on what they can before the storm arrives
An elderly woman sits while other family members gather their belongings as they arrive at a stadium to seek refuge
WHY IS THE PHILIPPINES STRUCK BY TYPHOONS SO OFTEN?
Dr Steven Godby, expert in natural hazards at Nottingham Trent University, said: ‘No other country is struck by as many tropical cyclones each year as the Philippines.
‘For these storms to form, warm sea surface temperatures of at least 26C are needed and these conditions are found in the western parts of the main ocean basins, away from cold water currents.
‘Isolated island groups like the Philippines are particularly vulnerable to tropical cyclones.’
Hundreds of people still living in tents following Haiyan, known as Yolanda in the Philippines, were among the first to be relocated to safe zones in Tacloban, which has run out of hotel rooms as wealthier families booked ahead for the weekend.
Rita Villadolid, a 39-year-old taking refuge inside a stadium, said: ‘We’ve learned our lesson from Yolanda. Everyone here is gripped with fear.’
Disaster response official Blanche Gobenciong said nearly 12,000 residents in Tacloban, where entire settlements were wiped out by the storm, have so far been moved from high-risk villages to emergency shelters.
She said: ‘We’ve not heard of villagers resisting to be evacuated. Their trauma is still so fresh.
‘We have a zero-casualty target. Just one loss of life will really sadden us all and make us wonder what went wrong.’
International relief teams are already positioned in the Philippines, ready for the worst.
Kevin Noone, executive director of International Medical Corps UK, which has workers on the ground prepared for the storm, said: ‘Coming just one year after Typhoon Haiyan, this storm has the potential to cause widespread damage and human suffering. Our teams are on the ground and prepared for whatever the next 48 hours has in store for the people of the Philippines.’
The typhoon was downgraded to a category 4 today, a level below a ‘super typhoon’, with hopes it may weaken to winds of around 108mph by the time it strikes tomorrow.
Workers fold a billboard sign in anticipation of strong winds brought by Typhoon Hagupit on a coastal road in Cavite City, south of Manila
Stranded passengers sleep on chairs in ports north of Manila as ferries were cancelled in anticipation of Typhoon Hagupit
A stranded cargo ship washed ashore in Anibong village, near Tacloban, after Typhoon Haiyan last year awaits another battering
Children carried their belongings and each other as they made their way to safe areas, passing another ship left stranded after last year’s devastation
Widow Ginalyn Edca holds a picture of her husband who was killed by Haiyan as she makes a way to an evacuation centre
Alexander Pama, chief of the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council, points to a satellite image of Typhoon Hagupit which is brewing over the Pacific Ocean