Super typhoon smashes northern Philippines

Channel NewsAsia 20 Oct 16;

MANILA: One of the most powerful typhoons to ever hit the Philippines destroyed houses, tore roofs off schools and ripped giant trees out of the ground on Thursday (Oct 19), but there were no immediate reports of deaths.

Super Typhoon Haima hit the northern province of Cagayan late on Wednesday night with winds almost on a par with catastrophic Haiyan, which was then the strongest storm to strike the disaster-prone Southeast Asian archipelago and claimed more than 7,350 lives in 2013.

Haima roared across mountain and farming communities of the northern regions of the main island of Luzon overnight, and by morning a picture was emerging of widescale destruction.

"Rice and corn plants as far as the eye can see are flattened," Villamor Visaya, a university teacher in Ilagan, one of the main northern cities with a population of 130,000 people, told AFP by telephone.

"Many houses were destroyed. I saw one school building crushed under a large tree... it was as if our house was being pulled from its foundations.

Haima hit coastal towns facing the Pacific Ocean with sustained winds of 225 kilometres (140 miles) an hour, and wind gusts of up to 315 kilometres.

It weakened overnight as it rammed into giant mountain ranges and by 9:00 am (0100 GMT) on Thursday was leaving the western edge of Luzon, heading towards southern China.

Jefferson Soriano, mayor of Tuguegarao, the capital of Cagayan where Haima made landfall, reported badly damaged schools and gymnasiums where people had sought shelter.

"They are calling for help because the roofs have been torn off. The problem is, our rescuers here are unable to go out and help," Soriana told DZMM radio before dawn while the storm was still raging.

President Rodrigo Duterte said on Wednesday night all possible preparations had been made for Haima, with tens of thousands of people evacuated, but he still struck an ominous tone.

"We only pray we be spared the destruction such as the previous times, which brought agony and suffering," Duterte said in Beijing, where he was on a state visit.

"But we are ready. Everything has been deployed."

About 10 million people across the northern parts of Luzon were at risk, the government's disaster risk management agency said on Wednesday.

The Philippine islands are often the first major landmass to be hit by storms that generate over the Pacific Ocean. The Southeast Asian archipelago endures about 20 major storms each year, many of them deadly.

The most powerful and deadliest was Haiyan, which destroyed entire towns in heavily populated areas of the central Philippines.

The capital of Manila is about 350 kilometres south of where Haima struck land.

However the city, with about 12 million people, was not affected, hit only by moderate winds overnight and little rain.

Haima was the second typhoon to hit the northern Philippines in a week, after Sarika struck on Sunday claiming at least one life and leaving three people missing.

- AFP


Millions on alert as super typhoon hits Philippines
Channel NewsAsia 20 Oct 16;

MANILA: Millions of people in the Philippines were on high alert on Wednesday (Oct 19) as one of the strongest typhoons ever hit the disaster-battered country with authorities warning of giant storm surges and destructive winds.

Super Typhoon Haima hit the northern province of Cagayan at about 11.00pm on Wednesday, bringing strong winds and heavy rains almost on a par with catastrophic Super Typhoon Haiyan which claimed more than 7,350 lives in 2013.

"We only pray we be spared the destruction such as the previous times, which brought agony and suffering," President Rodrigo Duterte said in Beijing, where he is currently on a four-day visit. "But we are ready. Everything has been deployed."

Haima has a weather band of 800 kilometres putting more than 10 million people across the northern parts of the Philippines' main island of Luzon within its reach, according to the government's disaster risk management agency.

The storm struck the Philippines with sustained winds of 225 kilometres an hour and gusts of 315 kilometres an hour, state weather forecaster Gener Quitlong said.

It is expected to move westward on through the mountainous northern end of the main Philippine island of Luzon and will exit the landmass by Thursday, he told AFP. It is then expected to track towards southern China.

Civil Defence chief Ricardo Jalad said all areas in the storm's path had undergone pre-emptive evacuation although he could not give an estimate on how many had fled.

"We are expecting that there will be damages to light structures," as well as danger from possible floods and landslides, Jalad told radio station DZMM.

Authorities warned coastal communities to expect storm surges of five metres or higher.

"It's already started. The wind is strong, the waves are big," said Julie Hermano, manager of a small resort in Santa Ana, a coastal town of about 30,000 people that is in the typhoon's direct path.

"Some residents have been panic-buying food in markets because we were told it's going to be a super typhoon. We've already tied down our water tank and prepared our (power) generator set."

POWERFUL AND DEADLY

The Philippine islands are often the first major landmass to be hit by storms that generate over the Pacific Ocean. The Southeast Asian archipelago endures about 20 major storms each year, many of them deadly.

The most powerful and deadliest was Haiyan, which destroyed entire towns in heavily-populated areas of the central Philippines.

"We are possibly dealing with a typhoon that is even stronger than Typhoon Yolanda (as Haiyan was known in the Philippines) in 2013. We must therefore brace ourselves for the possible effects of a typhoon of this magnitude," government executive secretary Salvador Medialdea said in a statement.

"We call on all government agencies to be on highest level of preparedness and to take all necessary precautions."

In the northern regions expected to be worst hit, tens of thousands of people sought refuge in schools and other makeshift evacuation centres as authorities raised the highest "signal five" typhoon alert.

Flights to the north were also suspended and schools were closed.

Power to some areas was cut off late on Wednesday as strong winds heralding Haima's landfall brought down electricity lines.

The Philippine capital of Manila is about 350 kilometres south of where Haima struck land.

Authorities said the city, with about 12 million people, was not expected to be badly affected although it would experience some rain.

Haima is the second typhoon to hit the northern Philippines in a week, after Sarika struck on Sunday claiming at least one life and leaving three people missing.

- AFP/de


Typhoon kills 12, destroys rice fields in Philippines, takes aim at Hong Kong
Channel NewsAsia 21 Oct 16;

BENGUET, Philippines/HONG KONG: Typhoon Haima, the strongest storm to hit the Philippines in three years, killed at least 12 people and inundated vast tracts of rice and corn fields, officials in Manila said on Friday, before it took aim at Hong Kong.

Philippine authorities said they were assessing the extent of damage to infrastructure and crops, but confirmed that thousands of hectares of farmland were destroyed in northern provinces.

Eight of the victims were from the Cordillera region, said Ricardo Jalad, chief of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, citing reports the agency received from provincial officials.

In Cagayan alone, where the super typhoon made landfall late on Wednesday with destructive 225 kph (140 mph) winds and heavy rain, between 50,000-60,000 hectares of rice fields were flattened and flooded, said the provincial governor Manuel Mamba.

"It was like we were hit by another Yolanda," he told a radio station, referring to the 2013 super typhoon known internationally as Haiyan which killed at least 6,000 people and destroyed billions of pesos worth of property.

Hong Kong shut all but essential services in the global financial hub as the storm approached.

"According to the present forecast track, Haima will be closest to Hong Kong around noon, skirting about 100 km (62 miles) to the east of the territory," said the observatory on its website.

"This means that winds with mean speeds of 63 kmh (40 mph) or more are expected from the northwest quarter."

Flights and train services have been cancelled in and out of the city.

(Reporting by Erik de Castro in Manila and Greg Torode and Farah Master in Hong Kong; Editing by Nick Macfie)

- Agencies/rw

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