SAN PABLO (Philippines) • One of the most powerful typhoons to ever hit the Philippines killed at least eight people yesterday as ferocious gales and landslides destroyed tens of thousands of homes.
Super Typhoon Haima struck late on Wednesday night with winds similar to those of catastrophic Haiyan in 2013, which was then the strongest storm to strike the disaster-prone South-east Asian archipelago and claimed more than 7,350 lives.
Haima roared across mountain and farming communities of the northern regions of the main island of Luzon overnight, causing widespread destruction and killing at least eight people, the authorities said.
"We were frightened because of the strong winds. There was no power, no help coming," Ms Jovy Dalupan, 20, said as she sheltered at nightfall on the side of a highway in San Pablo, a badly damaged town of 20,000 people in Isabela province.
Ms Dalupan, her two young daughters and husband were forced to flee to the highway along with their neighbours during the height of the storm when their shanty homes, made of plywood, were ripped apart.
"We were soaked when the roof flew off, even my little babies got drenched... all of our clothes were drenched. We have nothing to change into."
Haima hit coastal towns facing the Pacific Ocean with sustained winds of 225kmh, and wind gusts of up to 315kmh.
It weakened overnight as it rammed into giant mountain ranges and, by yesterday morning, had passed over the western edge of Luzon and into the South China Sea, heading towards southern China.
While Hong Kong last night issued a strong wind signal, its neighbour Shenzhen city was set to activate the country's highest level of emergency response measures starting from midnight.
Offices, businesses and schools in Shenzhen will be closed today. Residents have been advised to stay indoors.
The governor of Cagayan, a Philippine province of 600,000 people neighbouring Isabela where Haima made landfall, said the entire region was without power as he reported widespread destruction.
"Almost every house here has been damaged," governor Manuel Mamba told ABS CBN television.
President Rodrigo Duterte said on Wednesday night all possible preparations had been made for Haima, with tens of thousands of people evacuated, but he still struck an ominous tone.
"We only pray we be spared the destruction such as the previous times, which brought agony and suffering," he said in Beijing, where he was on a state visit.
"But we are ready. Everything has been deployed."
About 10 million people across the northern parts of Luzon were at risk, according to the govern- ment's disaster risk management council.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, XINHUA