Typhoon slams into Philippines, 1 million evacuated – Reuters

Posted: Saturday, December 06, 2014

(Adds typhoon makes landfall, 1 million people evacuated)

By Rosemarie Francisco

MANILA Dec 6 (Reuters) – A powerful typhoon roared into the
eastern Philippines on Saturday, bringing lashing rain and
strong winds that felled trees, ripped off tin roofs and toppled
power lines in areas still bearing the scars of a super typhoon
13 months ago.

About 1 million people had already fled to shelters by the
time Typhoon Hagupit made landfall, in what a U.N. agency said
was one of the world’s biggest peacetime evacuations.

As the storm barrelled in from the Pacific, power was cut
across most of the central island of Samar and nearby Leyte
province, including Tacloban City, considered ground zero of the
devastating super typhoon Haiyan last year.

“The wind is blowing so strongly, it’s like it is whirling,”
Mabel Evardone, an official of the coastal town of Sulat in
Eastern Samar, said on local radio. “The waters have risen now.”

There was no word of any casualties.

Hagupit had weakened to a category 3 storm, two notches
below “super typhoon”, but could still unleash huge destruction
with torrential rain and potentially disastrous storm surges of
up to 4.5 metres (15 ft), the weather bureau PAGASA said.

The eye of the typhoon hit the town of Dolores, Eastern
Samar at 9:15 p.m. (1315 GMT), PAGASA said, adding the storm
maintained its strength, with winds of up to 175 kph (110 mph)
near the centre and gusts of up to 210 kph (130 mph).

“We can expect that heavy rains were dumped on Eastern Samar
because Ruby hovered for a long time over the coastal areas,”
weather forecaster Jori Loiz said on radio, referring to the
local name of typhoon Hagupit.

The weather bureau said Hagupit – which means “lash” in
Filipino – maintained its projected path towards Masbate,
Romblon and Oriental Mindoro provinces, slightly north of areas
devastated by super typhoon Haiyan last year.

PAGASA earlier said the storm was moving north northwest at
16 kph (10 mph).

“Ruby’s lashing will be severe,” Interior Secretary Manuel
Roxas told government radio. “Let’s be alert. Let’s evacuate to
prevent any harm to your families.”

Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific
cancelled about 100 flights to central and southern Philippines
on Saturday.

Residents of low-lying villages and landslide-prone areas
have fled to schools, civic centres, town halls, gyms and
churches, the national disaster agency said.

“We received reports about a million people evacuating
already. There is increased awareness to make early action and
co-operate and do pre-emptive evacuation,” Gwendolyn Pang,
secretary general of the Philippine Red Cross, said in a
television interview.

At least 50 municipalities in the central Philippines and
the southern part of the country’s main Luzon island were at
risk of storm surges, the Science and Technology department
said.

The typhoon was unlikely to hit the capital Manila, home to
around 12 million people, the agency said.

“Typhoon Hagupit is triggering one of the largest
evacuations we have ever seen in peacetime,” said Denis McClean,
spokesman of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk
Reduction in Geneva.

Relief agency Refugees International said in a statement it
was “deeply concerned” that evacuation centres may not be safe.

“A damage assessment of designated evacuation centres in
typhoon-affected areas indicated that in some places – such as
Eastern Samar, where Hagupit is headed – less than 10 percent of
evacuation centres were likely to withstand future typhoons,”
the group said.

LESSONS LEARNED

The United States had offered to send nine C-130 transport
aircraft, three P-3C Orion, and medical and relief workers,
said Major Emmanuel Garcia, commander of the Armed Forces’ 7th
civil relations group.

Other foreign governments also sent word they were ready to
help the disaster-prone Southeast Asian nation, he said.

The islands of Samar and Leyte were worst-hit by 250 kph
(155 mph) winds and storm surges brought by Typhoon Haiyan in
November.

“There has been a tremendous amount of learning from last
year,” said Greg Matthews, emergency response advisor at the
International Rescue Committee. “There have been reports from
our field officers and partners that people are evacuating
themselves. They are aware of the situation.”

Haiyan, one of the strongest typhoons ever to make landfall,
left more than 7,000 dead or missing and more than 4 million
homeless or with damaged houses. About 25,000 people in Eastern
Samar and Leyte still live in tents, shelters and bunkhouses.

International humanitarian agencies and non-government
groups, which have been supporting Haiyan-devastated communities
in the central Philippines, are preparing to mobilize aid and
relief efforts in the aftermath of Typhoon Hagupit.

Soldiers were deployed to urban centres, particularly in
Tacloban City, where widespread looting broke out after Haiyan.

“The soldiers will help our police counterparts in
maintaining peace and order, and prevent looting incidents,”
said Colonel Restituto Padilla Jr, armed forces spokesman.

(Additional reporting by Jazmin Bonifacio in Samar, Neil Jerome
Morales and Erik dela Cruz in Manila and Stephanie Nebehay in
Geneva; Editing by Alex Richardson)

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