Manila, November 1 – A super typhoon slammed into the Philippines early on Sunday (Nov 1), affecting some 30 million and killing at least four as it brought hurricane-force winds and dumped heavy rains across the main island of Luzon.
Typhoon Goni, locally known as Rolly, made landfall at around 5am in Catanduanes province in Bicol, some 500km south-east of the capital Manila, with winds of up to 225kmh and short gusts of 310kmh.
“Areas along the path of the eye of the storm are experiencing a very dangerous situation… catastrophic violent winds and intense to torrential rainfall,” weather forecaster Chris Perez said at a news briefing.
The typhoon tore off roofs, tipped over walls, uprooted trees, triggered landslides and set off storm surges that flooded coastal towns across the Bicol region, home to close to six million.
People were spotted sitting on their rooftops, as rains poured down and floodwaters swept through their village.
Power was knocked out in areas battered by fierce winds, including some large cities in metropolitan Manila, the densely populated capital region of more than 13 million.
Cavite province, just an hour south of Manila, was placed under a “state of calamity”.
Equivalent to a Category 5 hurricane, Goni is the strongest typhoon to hit anywhere in the world so far this year. It is hammering the same regions still reeling from the fury of another typhoon, Molave, which last week left 22 people dead.
It has evoked memories of Typhoon Haiyan in November 2013, which left more than 7,300 people dead and missing.
Albay province Governor Francis Bichara reported that at least four people in Albay province died. One man was killed when a tree tipped over and fell on him.
Mr Bichara added that several dikes burst, causing fast-moving floods that killed three, including a five-year-old boy. Mudslides were also reported along the slopes of Mayon volcano, sweeping away several houses.
One image posted on social media showed a body jammed onto a tree and partially buried in mud in a town in Albay. A 78-year-old man was reported to have died after suffering a stroke, as he was being evacuated along with thousands of others.
Mr Ricardo Jalad, executive director of the national disaster agency, said the typhoon affected over 31.9 million people. Over 350,000 were evacuated, he added.
Manila’s airports and rail services were shut down.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque said thousands of Covid-19 patients and health workers had been moved from their quarantine facilities to day-care centres, public schools, hotels and motels.
The Philippines has the second-highest Covid-19 infections and deaths in South-east Asia, next only to Indonesia, with 383,113 cases and 7,238 deaths.
Forecasters said Goni’s eye may hit or graze metropolitan Manila late Sunday to early Monday (Nov 2).
The typhoon may considerably weaken after it hits the Sierra Madre mountain range, then cross Luzon towards the South China Sea. As of noon, the weather bureau downgraded its classification of Goni from a super typhoon to a “very strong typhoon”, with maximum winds down to 215kmh.
Goni is the 18th typhoon to hit the Philippines this year.
The Philippines is the first major landmass facing the Pacific cyclone belt. As such, it gets hit by an average of 20 storms and typhoons each year.
The typhoon season usually starts in June and peters out by November. But in recent years, the strongest typhoons have been slamming the country as the year draws to a close in November and December.