Six dead as typhoon ploughs into Philippines

Tacloban, which was wrecked by another typhoon last year, suffered less damage when Hagupit swept through yesterday.
Tacloban, which was wrecked by another typhoon last year, suffered less damage when Hagupit swept through yesterday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Hagupit wreaks destruction but mass evacuation keeps casualty count low

Typhoon Hagupit ploughed through the central Philippines, bringing heavy rain and gales, tearing apart homes, downing power lines, toppling trees, cutting off communications and blocking roads with debris.

However, a massive evacuation and early deployment of emergency workers and government resources have kept fatalities to just six as of yesterday.

With Hagupit expected to reach Sibuyan Island 150km south of Manila early this morning, schools in the capital and five other affected regions have been ordered shut for the day.

The 200 Singaporean students in Manila for the sixth Asean Schools Games returned safely to Singapore last night. The contingent left on time for Singapore on their scheduled Philippines Airlines flight at around 3pm yesterday, landing at Changi Airport slightly early at 6.52pm. Swimmer Tan Ginyu, 18, said of the weather in Manila: "It was quite windy when we left. We were indoors, but I could see the trees moving."

On the country's eastern seaboard, huge waves crashed into coastal villages and gale-force winds knocked out power and communication lines and scattered debris in Samar Island, 540km south-west of Manila.

The damage to infrastructure wrought by Hagupit appeared less massive than earlier feared.

Hagupit was seen as a new test of President Benigno Aquino's leadership a year after he was criticised for his poor handling of the deadly Super Typhoon Haiyan.

By initial accounts, Mr Aquino seems to have passed the test.

In Tacloban city, which was devastated by Haiyan 13 months ago, Deputy Mayor Sambo Yaokasin said: "We do not have any confirmed deaths. There are no bodies scattered on the road. There is no looting. No mountains of debris. I would say we learnt our lessons well."

Mr Aquino's spokesman Abigail Valte said: "Local governments are better prepared this time. It is better to err on the side of prudence and on the side of caution."

Haiyan, the strongest typhoon in recorded history, caused massive destruction when it barrelled through the central Philippines in November last year, leaving at least 7,000 dead and levelling hundreds of thousands of homes.

This time, the government oversaw the evacuation of more than 700,000 in six regions. That largely kept the casualty count low.

Scattered reports said six were killed as Hagupit made landfall last Saturday night and swept across the central Philippines yesterday. A 75-year-old woman was reported to have drowned when a storm surge hit Catarman town in Northern Samar province, while a one-year-old girl and a 65-year-old man died of hypothermia in Iloilo province.

In provinces that have seen the worst of Hagupit, evacuees have been told they can go home.

rdancel@sph.com.sg

Additional reporting by Olivia Ho

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