A powerful super typhoon slammed into the eastern Philippines with violent winds Sunday, killing at least seven people and causing volcanic mudslides to bury houses before weakening as it blew toward Manila, where the capital’s main airport was shut down, officials said.
Typhoon Goni hit the island province of Catanduanes at dawn with sustained winds of 225 kilometers per hour and gusts of 280 km / h. It went west towards densely populated regions, including Manila, and rain-soaked provinces still recovering from a typhoon hitting a week ago, leaving at least 22 people dead.
Gov. Al Francis Bichara said at least four people were killed in his hard-hit province of Albay, including a father and son who were in a rural community hit by mudslides and boulders dropped from Mayon Volcano by heavy rain. Villagers fled to safety as the typhoon approached, but the two were apparently put down, he said.
“The child was found 15 kilometers away,” Bichara told DZMM radio, adding that the child was swept away by mud and flooding.
Three other villagers, including one attached to a tree, were killed in Albay, the Civil Defense Office said.
Ricardo Jalad, head of the government’s disaster preparedness agency, said the destructive force of the typhoon was capable of causing major damage. “There are so many people who are really in vulnerable areas,” he said.
The Philippine Weather Service reinforced these concerns, saying that within 12 hours of the typhoon landing, people would experience “catastrophic, violent winds and intense to heavy rainfall.”
Residents were warned of likely landslides, massive flooding, storm surges of up to 5 meters (16 feet) and strong winds that could blow shanties away. But as in previous storms, some refused to obey the warnings.
In the province of Quezon, villagers Diane Joco, along with her husband, parents, siblings and cousin, pushed out of their slender houses on stilts on the shores of Calauag town, but stayed close by in the neighbor’s rugged house near the coast to guard their own homes .
“We should be nearby to be able to quickly repair damage to our house, otherwise it will fall apart and be blown away. We have no other house, ”Joco said by telephone. She suddenly shouted as she spoke, saying that part of the tin roof of her neighbor’s house had almost been torn off by a frightening gust of wind.
‘Our fears have doubled’
One of the most powerful typhoons in the world this year, Goni has evoked memories of Typhoon Haiyan, which left more than 7,300 people dead or missing, flattened entire villages, swept ships inland and displaced more than 5 million in the central Philippines in November. 2013.
Goni was weakened before dark with sustained winds of 165 km / h and gusts of up to 230 km / h, but remained dangerously strong, forecasters said.
Jalad, the emergency response officer, said nearly a million people were preventively relocated to emergency aid.
Forecasts said the typhoon’s eye could pass about 70 kilometers south of the metropolitan area of Manila, the bubbly metropolitan region with more than 13 million people, around Sunday night.
Manila’s main airport was ordered closed for 24 hours from Sunday to Monday, with airlines canceling dozens of international and domestic flights. The military and national police, along with the Coast Guard, were put on full alert.
In a gymnasium in Manila that was turned into an emergency room, displaced residents worried about COVID-19 outbreaks. The Philippines has had more than 383,000 cases of the virus, which is the second most in Southeast Asia behind Indonesia.
“We’re scared – our fears are doubling,” said Jaqueline Almocera, a 44-year-old street vendor who covered the shelter. “The people here are mixed, unlike when you are at home, safe, and we do not go out. Here you interact with other evacuees. “
Hundreds of COVID-19 patients were relocated to hospitals and hotels from tent quarantine centers as the typhoon blew closer to the countryside, Jalad said.
The Philippines is hit by about 20 typhoons and storms every year. It is also located on the so-called Pacific “Ring of Fire”, where earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are common, making it one of the world’s most catastrophic.