A powerful super typhoon has slammed into the eastern Philippines with ferocious winds, killing at least seven people and causing volcanic mudflows to bury houses.
The typhoon weakened as it blew towards Manila, where the capital’s main airport was closed, officials said.
Typhoon Goni hit the island province of Catanduanes at dawn with sustained winds of 140mph and gusts of 174 mph. It was barrelling west towards densely populated regions, including Manila, and rain-soaked provinces still recovering from a typhoon that hit a week ago and 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 who were in 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 15 kilometres away,” Mr Bichara told DZMM radio, adding that the child was swept away by mudflows and floodwaters.
Three other villagers, including one pinned down by a tree, were killed in Albay, the Office of Civil Defence said.
Ricardo Jalad, who leads 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 after the typhoon blasted into shore, people would experience “catastrophic, violent winds and intense to torrential rainfall”.
Residents were warned of likely landslides, massive flooding, storm surges of up to five metres and powerful winds that can blow away shanties.
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 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, the disaster response official, said nearly a million people were pre-emptively moved into emergency shelters.
Forecasters said the typhoon’s eye may pass about 43 miles south of metropolitan Manila, the sprawling capital region of more than 13 million people, around nightfall on Sunday.
Manila’s main airport was closed for 24 hours from Sunday to Monday, and airlines cancelled dozens of international and domestic flights. The military and national police, along with the coast guard, were put on full alert.
In a Manila gymnasium that was turned into an emergency shelter, displaced residents worried about Covid-19 outbreaks. The Philippines has had more than 383,000 cases of the virus, the second-most in south-east Asia behind Indonesia.
“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-19 patients were moved to hospitals and hotels from tent quarantine centres as the typhoon blew closer to the country, Jalad said.
The Philippines is lashed by about 20 typhoons and storms each year. It is also located on the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, where earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are common, making it one of the world’s most disaster-prone countries.