Asia

Philippines Typhoon Hagupit makes landfall as thousands flee

  • 6 December 2014
  • From the section Asia
Media captionRupert Wingfield-Hayes reports from Tacloban as people wait in fear

Typhoon Hagupit has made landfall in the town of Dolores in the eastern Philippines, the country's weather agency says.

The storm knocked out electricity and felled trees in the area, though no casualties have been reported.

Over half a million have fled coastal villages in the past few days ahead of the storm's arrival.

The typhoon is on course for the city of Tacloban, where thousands were killed by Typhoon Haiyan a year ago.

It has weakened slightly but gusts are still peaking at 195km/h (120mph).

Thousands of passengers were left stranded after Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific cancelled more than 150 flights to the central and southern Philippines on Friday and Saturday, and sea travel services were suspended.


At the scene: Saira Asher, BBC News, Legazpi

From Manila it took us 12 hours by car to reach Legazpi, a city in the south of Luzon island. Along the way in small towns we saw people stocking up on fuel, food and materials to fortify their homes.

In this popular tourist city on the coast, the streets are deserted. Officials say 75,000 people have already been evacuated.

The typhoon is expected to cross the country further north of Tacloban on the island of Samar.

This city could be feeling the full force of Typhoon Hagupit and many here are not taking any chances. Businesses are boarding up their windows and readying evacuation areas, as they prepare for the worst.


'Massive scale'

Officials said that there had been damage in Dolores.

"There are many trees that have toppled, some of them on the highway", police spokesman Alex Robin told the Associated Press from Dolores.

"We are totally in the dark here. The only light comes from flashlights."

The BBC's Jonathan Head said the Philippines was experiencing one of its largest ever peacetime evacuations.

He said people were being moved to higher ground and into more solid buildings such as churches, schools and sports stadiums.

However, no-one is sure where the worst affected places will be because typhoons change direction and intensity, our correspondent adds.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Hundreds of thousands of people fled their homes and many were stranded after flights were cancelled
Image copyright AFP
Image caption The typhoon is around 600km across, but weakened slightly on Friday, and was downgraded from "super typhoon" status
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Volunteers are preparing relief goods inside a warehouse in Manila
Media captionTyphoon Hagupit makes landfall

President Benigno Aquino, who met disaster agency chiefs on Friday afternoon, has ordered food supplies to be sent to affected areas as well as troops and police to be deployed to prevent looting in the aftermath.

Local media reported Mr Aquino as saying there was "no indication" for now that Hagupit, would be as strong as Haiyan.

Haiyan - known as Yolanda in the Philippines - was the most powerful typhoon ever recorded over land. It tore through the central Philippines in November 2013, leaving more than 7,000 dead or missing.

Hagupit's huge diameter of 600km (370 miles) meant that about 50 million people, or half the nation's population, were living in vulnerable areas, Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman told AFP news agency.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Residents battled heavy winds to evacuate the town of Marabot in the eastern Philippines

Philippine weather authorities said that Hagupit, which means "smash" in Filipino, had weakened slightly, though it still had powerful gusts.

Schools and government offices are closed in some areas and there were long queues at shops and petrol stations as people stocked up on supplies.

'Deja vu'

In Tacloban, a city of 220,000 people, many have taken shelter in the sports stadium.

"It's deja vu, but not the same as last year with Haiyan," local resident Mariano Tan Jr told the BBC.

Media captionJonathan Head filmed his crew's arduous journey towards the centre of Typhoon Hagupit

"We're already prepared... we've stored basic commodities - water, rice, beans, fuel. We're also prepared in case of a power cut.

"We intend to stay," he added. "We survived last year, we will do it again tomorrow. We will still stand our ground because no calamities can break us apart."

Image caption People have been boarding up windows to try to limit the damage
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Thousands of passengers were left stranded as domestic flights were cancelled and sea travel was suspended

About 19,000 people from coastal villages are in 26 evacuation centres, Tacloban's disaster office spokesman Ilderando Bernadas told Reuters.

He said that number was expected to double as the authorities began forcing people to evacuate.

Tacloban's Deputy Mayor Jerry Yaokasin told the BBC's Newsday: "We haven't yet fully recovered from last year's super-typhoon Haiyan and here we go again.

"It's stirring up a lot of emotions in our hearts and bringing back so many painful memories of what happened during super typhoon Haiyan."

The US Navy's Joint Typhoon Warning Center had classified Hagupit as a super typhoon but downgraded it on Friday morning. It remains the strongest storm to hit the Philippines this year.

The Philippines gives its own names to typhoons once they move into Philippine waters, rather than using the international storm-naming system.


Are you in the region? How are you preparing for typhoon Hagupit? Send your stories to haveyoursay@bbc.co.uk

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