Typhoon Hagupit slammed the central Philippines with heavy rain and gales, toppling trees and power lines and threatening the recovery of regions devastated by Super TyphoonHaiyan a year ago.
Schools in the area and in metro Manila will be shut today as the strongest typhoon to hit the nation this year moves toward the capital. At least 35 power lines and transformers were damaged in eastern Visayas and south Luzon, causing power failures, the grid operator said on its website.
At least three people died in evacuation centers in the central Philippines, authorities reported. Roofs were blown off bunkhouses in Tacloban City, Vice Mayor Jerry Yaokasin said by phone. “Our people are worried that this new calamity is going to stall our recovery” from Haiyan, he said.
The government has evacuated nearly 900,000 people from danger zones as Hagupit — or “whip” in Filipino — tests the leadership of President Benigno Aquino, who attracted widespread criticism after Haiyan killed more than 6,200 people and left more than 1,000 missing in November last year.
“Local governments are better prepared” this time, Aquino’s spokeswoman Abigail Valte said on DZRB radio. “It’s better to err on the side of prudence and on the side of caution.”
The Philippines was the country most affected by weather- related events last year, according to Germanwatch’s global climate risk index, citing absolute losses at $24.5 billion, or 3.8 percent of gross domestic product. Haiyan alone caused more than $13 billion in economic damage, it said. U.K. research company Maplecroft ranks the Philippines second to Japan for being at-risk from tropical storms.
A one-month old boy and a 62-year-old man died from illnesses in an evacuation center in Leyte province in Visayas, police Superintendent Edgardo Esmero said by phone. In Iloilo, also in Visayas islands, a 1-year-old girl and a 65-year-old man died from hypothermia, according to a civil defense unit report.
“It’s a really serious situation in the evacuation centers,” Jennifer MacCann, World Vision’s operation director for the typhoon response, said by e-mail. “Many of the families don’t know when they can return home and what they will find once they get there.”
Hagupit’s winds are gusting to 105 knots (195 kilometers an hour), according to the Joint TyphoonWarning Center. The center forecast the storm to track within 58 nautical miles (107 kilometers) of Manila this evening before crossing into the South China Sea and curving southwest toward Vietnam. The typhoon’s estimated rainfall is as much as 30 millimeters per hour, considered torrential, within its 500-kilometer diameter, the country’s weather bureau said.
Eleven provinces are without electricity, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council. Globe Telecom Inc. and Smart Communications Inc. networks were down in some parts of Leyte and eastern Samar, it said.
Philippine Airlines Inc. canceled 66 domestic flights today, it said in an e-mailed statement. Airports were shut in Naga and Legazpi in Albay, Tacloban and Calbayog in eastern Visayas, while total flights canceled reached 183. More than 2,200 people were stranded in various ports.
As many as 12.9 million people may be affected by Hagupit, the United Nations’ Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System said on its website.
In Manila, billboards were rolled down and sandbags were placed on the sea wall of Manila Bay, with the capital under the lowest alert in a four-scale storm warning system. Heavy to intense rain in the city is possible, according to forecasters.
–With assistance from Norman P. Aquino in Manila.