By Regine Cabato and Jason Samenow,
AP APWaves batter the coast of Sorsogon province Sunday as Typhoon Goni hits the country.
MANILA — Super Typhoon Goni, the world’s most powerful storm this year, crashed through the Philippines on Sunday, smashing buildings, toppling trees and causing floods and mudslides. Seven people were reported dead, a count that was expected to rise.
Peak winds were estimated at 195 mph early Sunday when Goni slammed into Catanduanes Island, home to 260,000 people. Those winds, equivalent to those of a strong Category 5 hurricane, made the storm comparable to Super Typhoon Haiyan, the catastrophic cyclone that devastated Tacloban City in the Philippines in 2013 and killed more than 6,000.
Goni struck as the country was already reeling from two typhoons in the previous two weeks, a coronavirus outbreak, a recession and record unemployment this year.
The storm largely spared Manila, the capital and most densely populated city, showering it with rain as it churned toward the West Philippine Sea.
The seven deaths included a child who was swept away by floodwaters. A full accounting of storm casualties in this island nation often takes days to assess.
Ahead of landfall, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration predicted “catastrophic violent winds and intense to torrential rainfall” and a storm surge over 10 feet — making it “a particularly dangerous situation.”
Authorities said Sunday that more than 346,000 people had been evacuated. The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said the number could rise to 1 million. At 8 a.m., 10 electricity cooperatives had lost power.
In the eastern province of Camarines Sur, a light tower snapped like a matchstick in a video posted on Facebook by a local member of congress. Another video showed a hanging bridge whipped by winds like a jump rope.
Keith Serrano, a medical student in Manila whose parents are in Camarines Sur, said he last made contact with them at 6:30 a.m. He reached his brother, a police officer who was assigned to conduct rescue operations in vulnerable areas, at 10 a.m.
“He told me that they’re currently stranded at the house of their rescue since the winds are already too strong to permit travel,” Serrano told The Washington Post. Then his brother stopped replying, “which made me anxious, given the situation.”
A bridge in the province of Albay collapsed, a dike gave way and water inundated a residential area. The region is home to the Mayon Volcano; the rains caused rock slides and mud flows from its slopes. Congressman Zaldy Co posted photos of a village buried in a landslide and said an estimated 300 houses were affected and several people were missing.
Francis R Malasig
A villager holds a toppled three-wheeled motorcycle in the typhoon-hit town of DeOcampo, Camarines Sur.
Flights and trains in the capital region were suspended. The hashtag #NasaanAngPangulo — “where is the president?” — trended online as the government began its briefing without President Rodrigo Duterte. It was later revealed he had opted to ride out the storm in his hometown Davao City, well out of the typhoon’s path.
Hitting Catanduanes Island weakened the storm. By midday local time, peak winds were estimated at around 150 mph, equivalent to a Category 4 hurricane, as it was passing Camarines Sur.
The typhoon has been described here as a “double whammy” on top of the coronavirus. The Philippines has reported more than 380,000 coronavirus cases, around 7,200 deaths and widespread job losses.
The Health Department said it would ensure generators and lifesaving equipment were provided to hospitals in anticipation of power outages. The department had said safety officers were needed to check on sanitation and monitor covid-19 symptoms in typically crowded evacuation centers.
In Baler, Aurora, a tourist town known for its surfing, beachside businesses kept their surfboards in stockrooms ahead of the storm.
A rescuer carries a child as residents are evacuated from a coastal community in Manila.
A mere tropical storm on Wednesday, Goni grew into the most powerful cyclone of the year on Friday. Peak winds of 195 mph on Sunday made it the strongest storm on earth since Hurricane Dorian devastated the northwest Bahamas in 2019. It’s the most intense cyclone in the western Pacific since Typhoon Meranti in 2016.
The Philippines has long experience with such storms. Of the 20 estimated to enter the region every year, around eight or nine make landfall here.
Goni arrived days after Typhoon Molave killed at least 22 people, mostly just south of Manila, according to Reuters.
Goni followed a similar path. Before it exited the Philippines, Serrano heard back from his brother, who was back in the command center.
“I was relieved and teary-eyed,” Serrano said. He had not heard from his parents. It took two days after Typhoon Molave for power and signal to be restored in their area. With a stronger storm, Serrano said, it might take a month or more.
Samenow reported from Washington.
This Oct. 31 satellite image released by NASA Worldview, Earth Observing System Data and Information System shows Goni moving near the Philippines.