Typhoon sweeps across Philippines

typhoonTyphoon Hagupit is sweeping across the eastern Philippines, toppling trees and power lines and threatening coastal areas with a powerful sea-surge.

More than half a million people have fled coastal villages in the area, which was still recovering from Typhoon Haiyan last year.

In Tacloban, where thousands were killed by Haiyan, roofs have been blown away and streets are flooded.

But Hagupit does not appear to have been as severe as many had feared.

So far there have been no reports of casualties.

The BBC’s Jonathan Head in Legazpi, about 200km (125 miles) north of Tacloban, said Hagiput was clearly a powerful storm but nowhere near as powerful as Haiyan.

The authorities believed they were well prepared this time, he adds, but it could be some time before the extent of damage in more remote areas becomes clear.

Jonathan Head reports from Cawayan, on the outskirts of Legazpi, where some families chose not to evacuate

Officials told the BBC that lighter than expected rain meant there was less chance of landslides, but that the strong winds could still bring down trees on homes.

Joey Salceda, governor of Albay province where Legazpi is situated, told the BBC that the main lesson from Typhoon Haiyan had been to prepare well and to evacuate people from vulnerable areas.

“That’s what we’ve been doing, so our principal instrument to achieve zero casualties is essentially evacuation,” he said.

“It doesn’t happen overnight so you need to train people. I feel confident we can achieve our zero casualty goal.”

Hagupit, known locally as Ruby, was packing maximum sustained winds of 175km/h (109mph) and gusts of 210km/h (130 mph) when it made landfall in Dolores in Eastern Samar province on Saturday evening local time.

Dolores police spokesman Alex Robin told AP news agency late on Saturday that many trees had already come down.

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

Maulid Warfa, the head of Unicef’s field office in Tacloban, said their five-storey concrete building was shaking under the force of the storm.

Speaking early yesterday he said: “We’re in this dark building and it’s raining heavily and there’s no electricity and we are using candles.

“We have a generator… but because of the rain and the flood and power problems we have switched it off. It’s too dangerous.”

Mr Warfa added: “Our concern now is not us sitting in this building. Our concern is for the little children who have had to go through this experience for the second time in 13 months.”

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

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, officials have said.


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