Philippine authorities are sending body bags, medicines and food packs to remote villages as the country prepared for Typhoon Hagupit’s onslaught, just over a year after Typhoon Haiyan devastated communities.
Typhoon Hagupit – translated roughly as ‘typhoon smash’ – strengthened overnight as sustained winds intensified to 143 miles per hour with gusts of 155 mph.
The typhoon is currently 280 miles from the Philippine’s eastern coast and is moving across the Pacific Ocean. It is expected to make landfall on the eastern Samar province late Saturday or early Sunday, according to local weather agency PAGASA.
Desperate not to repeat Typhoon Haiyan, which saw four million displaced and over 7,300 killed in November last year, authorities appeared better prepared to respond to the incoming storm with thousands already evacuated from central regions in danger from Hagiput and emergency supplies delivered to remote areas.
Nonetheless concerns increased after the US military’s Joint Typhoon Warning Centre in Hawaii cautioned that the typhoon may veer north, threatening the 12 million residents of Manila rather than evacuated central areas.
"We have alerted the people of Manila and we're ready," Mayor Joseph Estrada said, while acknowledging "these typhoons change direction all the time."
Reuters reported that roughly 2,000 travellers were trapped in the city as ports closed across the archipelago, with sea travel suspended. Despite this, tens of thousands of people have already fled coastal villages and landslide-prone areas in the central regions of the country.
Two airlines, Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific, have cancelled some flights to central and southern Philippines.
Haiyan was the strongest super typhoon ever recorded on land with wind speeds estimated at 195 mph, it devastated central Philippines, destroying millions of homes and leaving tens of thousands homeless.
In Pictures: Typhoon Hagupit
In Pictures: Typhoon Hagupit
1/20 Typhoon Hagupit
Filipino fishermen carry water supplies after securing fishing boats qas they make their way to an evacuation center at a fishing village in Cavite, south of Manila. Typhoon Hagupit weakened as it moved towards the Philippine capital after killing at least ten people and displacing more than 1 million people in the eastern and central provinces. Hagupit slammed into the country's eastern coast, bringing heavy rains and gale-force winds that flattened homes, ripped off roofs, and knocked out power and communications
2/20 Typhoon Hagupit
Destroyed houses and trees with a slogan calling for help are seen along a road in the village of Mantang
3/20 Typhoon Hagupit
Children play on top of a fallen coconut tree blocking a highway in San Julian town
4/20 Typhoon Hagupit
Children play atop sacks of donated clothes at an evacuation centre for the coastal community to take shelter from Typhoon Hagupit
5/20 Typhoon Hagupit
Military personnel along with public works employees clear a fallen tree blocking a section of national highway in Taft town
6/20 Typhoon Hagupit
A typhoon victim stands near clothes hung out for drying in Dolores, Samar
7/20 Typhoon Hagupit
A general view of damaged houses swept by Typhoon Hagupit in Eastern Samar
8/20 Typhoon Hagupit
A man pushes his motorcycle along floodwaters bought by Typhoon Hagupit in Camarines Sur province
9/20 Typhoon Hagupit
A man searches for recyclable plastic items along the coast, after strong winds and heavy rain brought by typhoon Hagupit battered Atimonan town, Quezon province, south of Manila
10/20 Typhoon Hagupit
A Filipino man negotiates a flooded rice field in Albay province
11/20 Typhoon Hagupit
Strong winds and rain pound the seawall hours before Typhoon Hagupit passes near the city of Legazpi
12/20 Typhoon Hagupit
Strong waves crash into coastal houses as Typhoon Hagupit pounds Legazpi, Albay province
13/20 Typhoon Hagupit
Filipino typhoon victim children beg for help in the town of San Julian, Samar island
14/20 Typhoon Hagupit
A Filipino typhoon victim is seen inside a damaged house in the town of Taft, Samar island
15/20 Typhoon Hagupit
Children play on a boat in a shanty town at the port area in Manila on December 7, 2014 ahead of the arrival of typhoon Hagupit
16/20 Typhoon Hagupit
A mother watches her baby inside a mosquito net at an evacuation centre in Manila
17/20 Typhoon Hagupit
Volunteers repack relief goods for victims of Typhoon Hagupit at the Department of Social Welfare and Development
18/20 Typhoon Hagupit
A Filipino family prepare food while waiting for evacuation at a coastal area in Paranaque city, south of Manila
19/20 Typhoon Hagupit
Filipino children sleep as families seek refuge at a school used as an evacuation center as they prepare for Typhoon Hagupit in Legazpi, Albay province
20/20 Typhoon Hagupit
Residents flee to Marabot
Although Hagiput was downgraded last night from a super typhoon, the storm still promises to be the worst of the year for the Philippines.
Dr Steven Godby, an expert in natural hazards at Nottingham Trent University, told The Independent: “Isolated island groups like the Philippines are particularly vulnerable to tropical cyclones and the threats come from the high winds, storm surge and heavy rains these storms bring."
He continued: "Strong winds can cause structural damage, heavy rainfall creates freshwater flooding and landslides and storm surges bring coastal flooding and potentially significant loss of life as we saw with Typhoon Haiyan last year.”
Hundreds still living in tents in Tacloban City from the last typhoon when the storm swathed through central Philippines have been prioritised for emergency evacuation.
News of the typhoon’s approach triggered panicked buying in the city, home to 200,000, as residents formed queues to stock up on food and petrol.
Hotels in Tacloban City ran out of rooms as wealthier families booked ahead for the weekend, and roughly 19,000 people from coastal villages sought safety in 26 evacuation centres.
President Benigno Aquino III led an emergency meeting yesterday, installing measures to prevent panic-buying and hoarding, and has placed the military on full alert.
Additional reporting from Associated Press and ReutersReuse content