A powerful super typhoon slammed into the eastern Philippines on Sunday, killing at least 10 people and causing volcanic mudflows to bury houses before weakening as it blew towards Manila, where the capital’s main airport was shut down, officials said.
Typhoon Goni hit the island province of Catanduanes at dawn with sustained winds of 140mph (225km/h) and gusts of 174mph. It was heading west towards densely populated regions, including Manila, and rain-soaked provinces still recovering from a typhoon last week that left at least 22 people dead.
Governor Al Francis Bichara said at least four people were killed in his hard-hit province of Albay, including a father and son from a rural community that was hit by mudflows and boulders swept down from Mayon volcano by heavy rains. Villagers fled to safety as the typhoon approached but the two apparently stayed put, he said.
“The child was found 15km (9 miles) away,” Bichara told DZMM radio, adding that the child was swept away by mudflows and flood water.
Three other villagers, including one pinned down by a tree, were killed in Albay, the civil defence office said.
Ricardo Jalad, who heads the government’s disaster response agency, said the typhoon’s destructive force was capable of causing major damage. “There are so many people who are really in vulnerable areas,” he said.
The Philippine weather agency reinforced those concerns, saying that within 12 hours of the typhoon arriving on shore people would experience “catastrophic, violent winds and intense to torrential rainfall”.
Residents were warned of probable landslides, flooding, storm surges of up to 5 metres (16ft) and winds that can blow away shanties. But as in past storms, some refused to heed the warnings.
In Quezon province, villager Diane Joco scrambled with her husband, parents, siblings and cousin out of their flimsy houses on stilts on the shore of Calauag town, but stayed close by in a neighbour’s sturdier house near the coast to guard their own homes.
“We should be nearby to be able to repair any damage to our house quickly, otherwise it will fall apart and be blown away. We have no other house,” Joco said by phone. She suddenly yelled as she spoke, saying that a part of the tin roof of her neighbour’s house was nearly ripped off by a gust.
One of the most powerful typhoons in the world this year, Goni has evoked memories of Typhoon Haiyan, which left more than 7,300 people dead or missing, flattened entire villages, swept ships inland and displaced more than 5 million people in the central Philippines in November 2013.
Goni weakened before nightfall, with sustained winds of 102mph and gusts of up to 143mph, but remained dangerously strong, forecasters said.
Jalad, said nearly 1 million people had been pre-emptively moved into emergency shelters.
Forecasters said the typhoon’s eye may pass about 43 miles south of metropolitan Manila, a region of more than 13 million people, around nightfall on Sunday.
Manila’s main airport was ordered to shut for 24 hours from Sunday to Monday and airlines cancelled dozens of international and domestic flights. The military and national police, along with the coastguard, were on full alert.
In a Manila gymnasium that was turned into an emergency shelter, displaced people worried about Covid-19 outbreaks. The Philippines has had more than 383,000 cases of the virus, second only to Indonesia in south-east Asia.
“We are scared – our fears are doubled,” said Jaqueline Almocera, a 44-year-old street vendor who took cover at the shelter. “The people here are mixed, unlike when you’re at home, safe and we don’t go out. Here you interact with other evacuees.”
Hundreds of Covid patients were moved to hospitals and hotels from tent quarantine centres as the typhoon blew closer to the country, Jalad said.
The Philippines has about 20 typhoons and storms each year. It is located on the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, where earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are common, making it one of the world’s most disaster-prone countries.