TUGUEGARAO, Philippines: Super Typhoon Mangkhut smashed through the Philippines yesterday, as the biggest storm to hit the region this year claimed the lives of its first victims and forced tens of thousands of people from their homes.
Roughly four million people were in the path of destruction the storm slashed through the northern tip of Luzon island, leaving at least four dead.
“As we go forward, this number will go higher,” Ricardo Jalad, head of the national civil defence office, told reporters, referring to the death toll.
As the powerful storm left the Southeast Asian archipelago and barrelled towards densely populated Hong Kong and southern China, Philippine authorities began sending search teams to remote areas.
The extent of the storm’s destruction began to emerge yesterday, with reports of rain-soaked hillsides collapsing, torrents of out-of-control floodwaters and people being rescued from inundated homes.
Just over 105,000 people fled their homes in the largely rural, agricultural region, seeking to escape the fury of the massive typhoon.
Mangkhut was packing sustained winds of 170 kilometres per hour and gusts of up to 260 km per hour as it left the Philippines.
An average of 20 typhoons and storms lash the Philippines each year, killing hundreds of people and leaving millions in near-perpetual poverty.
The dead were two women killed in landslide, a girl who drowned and a security guard crush by a falling wall. In addition to the four killed in the Philippines, a woman was swept out to sea in Taiwan.
Survivors were traumatised by the confrontation with the monster typhoon.
“It felt like the end of the world … that was stronger than Lawin”, said Bebeth Saquing, 64, using the local name for Super Typhoon Haima, which was one of the most powerful storms of 2016.
“I did not sleep,” she told AFP by phone from her home, which stood up to Mangkhut’s pounding.
The country’s deadliest on record is Super Typhoon Haiyan, which left more than 7,350 people dead or missing across the central Philippines in November 2013.
Poor communities reliant on fishing are some of the most vulnerable to fierce typhoon winds and the storm surges that pound the coast.
As the storm heads for China’s southern coast, Cathay Pacific said it expects more than 400 flight cancellations over the next three days.
The Hong Kong government said Mangkhut will pose “a severe threat to the region” as many residents in the city and neighbouring Macau stocked up on food and supplies.
The president of neighbouring Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen, told citizens to be ready.
“The typhoon is powerful and even it’s not expected to make a landfall in Taiwan, we should be well prepared and not… take it lightly,” she wrote on Facebook. — AFP