A year after the devastation wreaked by Typhoon Haiyan, more than 650,000 people have fled low-lying areas of eastern Philippines as a second superstorm hit the country, felling trees and cutting off electricity supplies.
Despite being downgraded from the highest storm rating shortly before making landfall, Typhoon Hagupit – which measures 370 miles across and is peaking at gusts of 130mph – still caused panic among people who feared a repeat of the destruction and loss of life of 2013. The storm was headed for the city of Tacloban, which is rebuilding itself after thousands were killed there in November 2013.
“Everybody is in fear because of what happened during [Haiyan],” said Ben Evardone, political representative of the Eastern Samar province. “We can already feel the wrath of the typhoon. Everybody is praying.”
Learning the lessons of Typhoon Haiyan, when many Filipinos accused the government of failing to give adequate warning, a command centre for rescue and relief operations has been set up in Borongan and the Philippines is carrying out of its largest ever peacetime evacuations.
Residents were moved to higher ground and into solid buildings such as churches and schools. Social media reports suggested that evacuation centres were filling up fast, and there were claims some had been turned away and forced to find shelter elsewhere.
President Benigno Aquino, who oversaw the country’s response with disaster agency leaders, ordered food supplies to be sent to affected areas and the deployment of armed troops and police to prevent looting in the storm’s aftermath.
Due to the storm’s huge width, 50 million people – half the nation’s population – are living in vulnerable areas. Many are taking steps to help themselves, with citizens reported to be stocking up on fuel, food and building materials to protect their homes and board up business premises. After Haiyan, 475,000 people are still living in makeshift housing.
Survivor Jojo Moro, 42, a businessman who lost his wife, daughter and mother in last year’s typhoon, said he had stocked up on sardines, instant noodles, eggs and water in preparation. “I’m scared,” he said. “I’m praying to God not to let another disaster strike us again. We haven’t recovered from the first.”
Gemma Parkin, a spokeswoman for Save the Children, said the concern was that families hit hardest in November 2013 would most likely suffer. “If Tacloban gets hit again then those families are going to be starting from scratch again, with nothing,” she warned.
Mimi Maitem, communications officer for Action Against Hunger, said the situation was better than 2014 due to the lessons learn in the last typhoon. However, the present storm would be one of the first tests of new safety procedures.
“We have just mobilised our teams, and are also dealing with intervention to increase risk awareness in the communities,” she said. “The government has forced evacuations, and secured some people on higher ground, so there isn’t a repeat of the impact of Typhoon Haiyan and what happened before. The government and the people are aware of the situation – and had to make sure the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan wouldn’t happen again.”
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
Oxfam said it anticipated the storm would be slower than last year’s onslaught but may linger, increasing the chance of flooding and landslides. Domestic flights have been cancelled and ferry crossings suspended, stranding thousands of people.
After the initial disaster relief effort, attempts to rebuild typhoon-hit areas of the Philippines after last November’s storm focused on providing shelter and cash grants to help rebuild the local economy. Many people in rural areas relied on coconut farming, but as coconut trees take seven years to grow, aid agencies taught the skills to grow other vegetables that could provide an immediate income. However, the rebuilding work is expected to last years, and now there is concern that the vegetables planted are also at risk.
The path of the storm is unpredictable, with US agencies stating it could veer north-west past the southern edge of the capital, Manila, home to more than 12 million people, and the Philippine agency projecting a more southerly path.
The confusion meant everybody “should prepare for the worst”, regional disaster response director Blanche Gobenciong told AP. “We have a zero-casualty target. Just one loss of life will sadden us all and make us wonder what went wrong.”