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Typhoon Goni Spares Manila After Churning Across Philippines

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Manila escapes the worst of the typhoon’s wrath.

Typhoon Goni, which made landfall in the Philippines with intense winds early on Sunday morning, by the end of the day appeared to have spared the area in and around the capital Manila, with its 13 million residents.

While only grazing the capital, the storm left at least 10 people dead in the Bicol region of Luzon, the most populous island of the Philippines, according to the regional Office of Civil Defense there. Several died from an overflowing river, while one was killed by a falling tree branch, said Al Francis Bichara, the governor of Albay Province in Bicol, which is to the east of Manila and was more squarely in the typhoon’s path.

Goni, which at one point measured as the most powerful typhoon to hit the Philippines in years, is expected to weaken to a severe tropical storm within the next 24 hours, according to the Philippine weather agency.

In Manila, electricity was out in some areas on Sunday evening, though no widespread destruction was reported. As of 8 p.m. local time, the typhoon was over the South China Sea, to the west of Luzon, according to the national weather agency. In Bicol, nearly 400,000 people have been displaced by the typhoon, with almost 350,000 of them sheltering in evacuation centers, the civil defense office there said.

Thousands of Manila residents had been relocated by the Coast Guard and local disaster officials, particularly those living in vulnerable areas near Manila Bay.

“We have been on high alert since Friday,” said Francisco Domagoso, the mayor of the capital.

Mr. Domagoso said that the city, which has been battling outbreaks of Covid-19, is trying “to strictly follow health protocols at the evacuation centers so we won’t have a spread of the coronavirus.”

“Right now, we are busy clearing debris on the roads, including fallen electricity wires and providing emergency food and provisions,” he said.

In Albay Province, one of the first heavily populated areas to be battered by Goni on Sunday, A.J. Miraflor, a resident, said the typhoon was “powerful and winds were howling.”

Flooding had inundated some streets, he said. On social media, Mr. Miraflor posted images from his mobile phone of people stranded on their rooftops as floodwaters swept through Cagsawa, a village in Albay near the town of Daraga.

Another typhoon, Durian, in 2006, devastated the Bicol region when massive mudflows poured from the slopes of the Mayon volcano. Nearly 2,000 people died from that storm.

In 1814, Cagsawa was buried when Mayon erupted, just one of a long list of natural disasters endured by this part of the Philippines.

Ten deaths are reported as Goni’s strength recalls a storm that ravaged the country in 2013.

With sustained winds of 135 miles per hour as it whipped across the central Philippines on Sunday morning, Typhoon Goni ranked among the most powerful tropical storm systems to make landfall in recorded history, even if its impact weakened as it reached the Southeast Asian country.

In 2013, the Philippines was hit by Typhoon Haiyan, another record-challenging storm, which killed more than 6,300 people on the island of Luzon, the country’s most populous, which is now being lashed by Goni. Haiyan destroyed or severely damaged more than four million homes, and the widespread looting that followed the storm devastated the university city of Tacloban.

The Philippine national weather agency, Pagasa, has warned that Goni’s effect on Luzon may be “catastrophic.”

On Sunday evening, the Office of Civil Defense in the Bicol region, on the eastern flank of Luzon, said that at least 10 people had died from Typhoon Goni. All fatalities are in Albay Province, the office said.

The national weather agency has warned of “complete roof failure on many residences and industrial buildings,” as well as “total damage to banana plantations.” All signs and billboards in affected areas may be blown down, and electricity and telecommunications services will be “severely disrupted,” the agency said.

Last week, 22 people were killed as Typhoon Molave cut a path across the same region that Goni is now powering through.

The national weather agency has warned that another tropical storm, Atsani, is developing behind Goni, although it has not yet gathered as much strength. The Philippines is regularly struck by about 20 typhoons a year, and climate change has intensified the effects of the storms.

On the front lines of the typhoon’s arrival, ‘roofs were flying.’

The governor of Albay Province, in the eastern Philippines not far from where Goni made landfall, described its arrival as “probably the strongest storm I have seen” in an interview with ANC, a Philippine cable TV station.

The governor, Al Francis Bichara, speaking from Legazpi, the capital of Albay, said that more than 150,000 residents had been evacuated to storm shelters ahead of landfall, but that he feared the shelters roofs could be torn off by the powerful winds.

“In our district, roofs were flying,” he said, adding that visibility had been reduced to about 50 yards.

Images on social media showed some roads in the province turned into rivers of rainfall.

Goni had sustained winds of 135 miles per hour at its center and gusts of 165 miles per hour as of early Sunday, prompting the Joint Typhoon Warning Center to categorize the storm as a super typhoon.

The eye of the storm was expected to pass near Metro Manila, the capital region and home to more than 24 million people.

“We are forecasting widespread destruction even if this does not turn out to become a super typhoon,” Ricardo Jalad, the chief of the government’s National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, said Saturday on state television.

Along with violent winds and torrential rain, storm surges along the coast were expected, the Philippine weather agency said.

The closing of a free news network shows the challenges in getting information to the public in an emergency.

Officials from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council on Sunday sent out a warning to the millions of Filipinos living in or near the path of Typhoon Goni to seek shelter.

“Based on the current projected track, an estimated population of 19.8 million are exposed to the typhoon within a 60-kilometer diameter and 31.9 million within a 100-kilometer diameter,” said Ricardo Jalad, the head of the national disaster agency.

But the news conference was aired on a cable TV station only available to subscribers who paid for it, highlighting the difficulty of getting emergency updates to large swaths of people since the closing of ABS-CBN, a news network that offered free TV and radio broadcasts.

ABS-CBN fell afoul of President Rodrigo Duterte, who accused it of bias. The network ended its local coverage in August. Many Filipinos in remote provinces had seen the network as a lifeline as they struggled to cope with emergencies like the coronavirus pandemic.

On Sunday, preparations for rescue and relief efforts were also announced at the news conference.

The chief of the armed forces, Gen. Gilbert Gapay, said that about 4,000 soldiers, bolstered by 2,000 militia personnel and thousands of other reservists, were mobilizing to help local officials in evacuating residents in the path of the typhoon.

“We are closely working with local officials and we have activated our joint disaster task force,” he added.

Climate change is exacerbating the Philippines’ exposure to natural disasters.

The Philippines is situated on the so-called Ring of Fire, a seismically active swath encircling the Pacific Ocean that is vulnerable to earthquakes and volcanoes. Typhoons regularly batter the Philippine archipelago, packed with more than 100 million people.

Deadly floods and landslides are common. And now climate change is exacerbating the Philippines’ weakness to natural disasters, making it one of the most vulnerable countries on the planet, scientists say.

As sea-surface temperatures rise, the Philippines’ positioning in warm ocean waters means the country is being subjected to both bigger and more frequent tropical storms. Residents of low-lying, densely populated slums, such as those on the outskirts of Manila, the capital, are particularly exposed. So are miners and farmers who excavate and till mountainous earth, creating slippery, muddy conditions in which torrents of soil bury can people alive.

Mass deforestation, including the destruction of mangroves along the coastlines, has torn away natural barriers to wind and water.

The Asian Development Bank says that more than 23,000 people in the Philippines died from natural hazards from 1997 to 2016.

Dakila Kim P. Yee, a sociologist at the University of the Philippines Visayas Tacloban College, said, “Climate change is a big international idea, but we are facing this on the local level and we aren’t equipped with enough progressive vision for it.”

The country has honed a resilient national character because of its disaster-prone condition, Mr. Yee said.

After Typhoon Haiyan, one of the most powerful tropical storms on record, churned across the Philippines in 2013, killing more than 6,300 people, local governments began drawing up better evacuation plans.

But the coronavirus has complicated the current disaster response, Mr. Yee said. Displaced residents may fear the contagion spreading in typhoon evacuation centers, and some evacuation centers were converted earlier into Covid-19 quarantine facilities.

Goni is the 18th typhoon of the year for the Philippines, a country prone to storms.

Goni, the 18th typhoon to strike the Philippines this year, arrives just days after Typhoon Molave tore through the country, dumping heavy rain and causing significant flooding. Molave killed 22 people and forced the evacuation of tens of thousands before moving on to Vietnam, where it caused deadly landslides.

Ricardo Jalad of the Philippine disaster management agency said that evacuations in areas threatened by Goni began on Friday. Nearly a million people in southern Luzon had already been evacuated as of Saturday, the agency reported.

Local officials could order forced evacuations if necessary, Mr. Jalad said.

“If they see that their constituents are facing danger, they are empowered to carry out forced evacuations with the help of the Philippine National Police and other uniformed services,” Mr. Jalad said. There had been “avoidable casualties” during Typhoon Molave, he added, because some people had ignored warnings.

The Philippines is hit by at least 20 tropical storms and typhoons every year, some of them deadly. Thousands were killed in November 2013 when Super Typhoon Haiyan tore through the central Philippines.

Jason Gutierrez reported from Manila, and Hannah Beech from Bangkok.



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