Philippines escapes worst as typhoon roars through

TWO people died from hypothermia and 900,000 fled to safety after Typhoon Hagupit caused havoc in the Philippines at the weekend.
The sea encroaches on a coastal village in Albay province. Picture: APThe sea encroaches on a coastal village in Albay province. Picture: AP
The sea encroaches on a coastal village in Albay province. Picture: AP

Shallow floods and damaged buildings were a common sight across the region, but there was no major destruction after Hagupit hit Eastern Samar and other island provinces.

Hagupit was packing maximum sustained winds of 87 mph and gusts of 106mph yesterday, considerably weaker than its peak power but still a potentially deadly storm, according to forecasters.

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The government, backed by the 120,000-strong military, had made massive preparations.

Traumatised by the death and destruction from Typhoon Haiyan last year, nearly 900,000 people fled to about 1,000 emergency shelters and safer grounds.

Rhea Estuna, a 29-year-old mother of one, fled on Thursday to an evacuation centre in Tacloban – the city hardest-hit by Haiyan – and waited in fear as Hagupit’s wind and rain lashed the school where she and her family sought refuge. When she peered outside yesterday she described seeing a starkly different aftermath than the one she witnessed after Haiyan struck in November 2013.

“There were no bodies scattered on the road, no big mounds of debris,” she said. “Thanks to God this typhoon wasn’t as violent.”

Haiyan’s tsunami-like storm surges and killer winds left thousands of people dead and levelled entire villages, most of them in and around Tacloban.

Nearly a dozen countries, led by the US and the EU, have pledged to help in case of a catastrophe from Hagupit, disaster-response agency chief Alexander Pama said.

The EU commissioner for humanitarian aid, Christos Stylianides, said a team of experts would be deployed to help assess the damage and response.

Two people, including a baby girl, died of hypothermia in central Iloilo province on Saturday at the height of the typhoon, and two women were injured when the trishaw in which they were passengers was struck by a falling tree in central Negros Oriental province.

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Displaced villagers were asked to return home from emergency shelters in provinces where the danger posed by the typhoon had waned, including Albay, where more than half a million people were advised to leave evacuation sites.

Nearly 12,000 villagers, however, will remain in government shelters in Albay because their homes lie near a restive volcano.

Like many others in Albay, southeast of Manila, Marline Conde has lived a tough life dodging typhoons like Hagupit and seasonal eruptions of Mayon, the country’s most active volcano.

The 50-year-old mother of six did not have to be moved to an emergency shelter ahead of Hagupit – she was already encamped in one with her family since October, when Mayon turned restive.

“We have been evacuating for a long time because of Mayon, then typhoons,” Mrs Conde said. “We have not gone home since then. The typhoon caught us here.”

While officials expressed relief that the typhoon had not caused major damage, they were quick to warn that Hagupit – Filipino for “smash” or “lash” – was still on course to hit three major central Philippine islands.