Vigan: At least five people were killed after Super Typhoon Haima smashed into the northern Philippines with ferocious winds and rains overnight, flooding towns and forcing thousands to flee before weakening today and blowing into the South China Sea, officials said.
Haima's blinding winds and rain had rekindled fears and memories from the catastrophe wrought by Typhoon Haiyan in 2013, but there were no immediate reports of any major damage amid faulty communications and power outages in several villages cut off from government aid and rescue teams by fallen trees, landslide and flood.
Nearly 100,000 villagers were evacuated from high-risk communities as the typhoon approached, helping prevent a larger number of casualties.
Two construction workers died, however, when a landslide buried their shanty in La Trinidad town in the mountain province of Benguet, officials said, while two villagers drowned in floodwaters and another is missing in Ifugao province, near Benguet.
A 70-year-old man died apparently of a heart attack while being brought to an emergency shelter from a flooded neighbourhood in Isabela province, officials said.
Although storms are a part of life in the country's north, many villagers were still horrified by Haima's fury.
"In my age, I'm 60 years old, this is the strongest typhoon I have ever seen," village councillor Willie Cabalteja told The Associated Press in Vigan city in Ilocos Sur province. "We haven't slept. Trees were forced down, houses lost their roofs and fences and metal sheets were flying around all night."
The fast-moving Pacific typhoon slammed into shore in northeastern Cagayan province late yesterday then barrelled northwestward before blowing out into the South China Sea with sustained winds of 150 kilometres per hour and gusts of up to 185 kph, according to forecasters.
Although weakening, the typhoon was expected to blow toward China, Filipino forecasters said.
After dawn, the extent of damage in Cagayan about 500 kilometres north of Manila and nearby regions became evident, with overturned vans, toppled or leaning electric posts and debris blocking roads. Most stores, their window panes shattered and canopies shredded by the wind, were close.
In northern Ilocos Sur province, ricefields resembled brown lakes under waist-high floodwaters, although cleanup operations had started.