Powerful typhoon slams into eastern province
Typhoon Hagupit slammed into the central Philippines' east coast late yesterday, knocking out power and toppling trees in a region where 650,000 people have fled to safety, still haunted by the massive death and destruction wrought by a monster storm last year.
Packing maximum sustained winds of 175 kilometres (109 miles) per hour and gusts of 210 kph (130 mph), Hagupit made landfall in Dolores, a coastal town facing the Pacific in Eastern Samar province, according to the Philippines' weather agency. There were no immediate reports of casualties.
Although it was unlikely to reach the unprecedented strength of Typhoon Haiyan, Hagupit's strong winds and heavy rain were enough to possibly cause major damage to an impoverished region still reeling from the devastating November 2013 storm, which left more than 7,300 people dead or missing.
"There are many trees that have toppled, some of them on the highway," police Senior Inspector Alex Robin said by phone late yesterday from Dolores, hours before Hagupit made landfall. "We are totally in the dark here. The only light comes from flashlights."
Hagupit - Filipino for "smash" or "lash" - was expected to hammer parts of a string of island provinces that was devastated by Haiyan's tsunami-like storm surges and ferocious winds. Hagupit weakened slightly on yesterday, but remained dangerously powerful and erratic.
Robin said about 600 families had hunkered down in Dolores' three-story municipal hall, one of many emergency shelters in the town.
"Everyone here is just looking for a place to sleep," he said. "All the windows are closed, but it is still cool because of the wind and the rain."