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Half A Million Flee To Shelters As Typhoon Hits Philippines

Residents use plastic sheets to protect them from rains and strong winds brought by Typhoon Hagupit in Legazpi, Albay province, eastern Philippines on Sunday. Aaron Favila/AP hide caption

toggle caption Aaron Favila/AP

Residents use plastic sheets to protect them from rains and strong winds brought by Typhoon Hagupit in Legazpi, Albay province, eastern Philippines on Sunday.

Aaron Favila/AP

Update at 9:00 p.m. ET

Typhoon Hagupit slammed ashore in the Philippines, making landfall on the country's east coast with ferocious winds gusting to 155 mph.

The storm went on to weaken somewhat, with gusts reaching 120 mph.

The typhoon ripped roofs off houses and caused flooding, according to AFP, but that there was no sign of the devastating storm surges that wreaked havoc during a major typhoon a year ago. However, the extent of the damage is so far hard to pin down, the wire service says:

"As day broke on Sunday, many areas across the eastern Philippines were uncontactable and it was impossible to know how badly they were damaged, Red Cross secretary general Gwendolyn Pang told AFP.

"In those that were reachable, residents and officials reported terrifying winds and waves that destroyed homes, although with most people in evacuation centres there were hopes casualties would be few."

A girl walks along the shore as strong waves from Typhoon Hagupit hit Atimonan, Quezon province, eastern Philippines on Saturday. Aaron Favila/AP hide caption

toggle caption Aaron Favila/AP

A girl walks along the shore as strong waves from Typhoon Hagupit hit Atimonan, Quezon province, eastern Philippines on Saturday.

Aaron Favila/AP

The BBC reports: "Thousands of passengers were left stranded after Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific cancelled more than 150 flights to the central and southern Philippines on Friday and Saturday, and sea travel services were suspended."

Half a million people were evacuated from their homes as the storm approached, The Associated Press reports, as the powerful typhoon bears down on a region that saw 7,300 deaths and widespread damage from Typhoon Haiyan just over a year ago.

Hundreds of residents take shelter Friday inside the provincial capitol of Surigao city close to central Philippines in anticipation of typhoon Hagupit which is expected to hit land Saturday afternoon. About a year ago the country was lashed by Typhoon Haiyan, which left more than 7,300 people dead. Erwin Mascarinas/AP hide caption

toggle caption Erwin Mascarinas/AP

Hundreds of residents take shelter Friday inside the provincial capitol of Surigao city close to central Philippines in anticipation of typhoon Hagupit which is expected to hit land Saturday afternoon. About a year ago the country was lashed by Typhoon Haiyan, which left more than 7,300 people dead.

Erwin Mascarinas/AP

Hagupit — the name translates into "smash" in Tagalog — made landfall at Dolores, just 65 miles north of the city of Tacloban, which was devastated by Haiyan. The storm had briefly spun up into a Category 5 "super" typhoon as it approached the island nation, but was downgraded to a Category 4 storm before it hit.

"There are many trees that have toppled, some of them on the highway," police Senior Inspector Alex Robin told the AP by phone late Saturday from Dolores, hours before the typhoon made landfall. "We are totally in the dark here. The only light comes from flashlights."

Hagupit is expected to take a slow and potentially destructive path through the archipelago — it's expected to spend four days over the islands — and it could drop more than 2 feet of rain in some spots, triggering flash flooding and mudslides. Storm surge could reach nearly 15 feet in some spots, the Philippines government said.

Fishermen carry their outrigger to higher ground Friday in Legazpi City, south of Manila. Charism Sayat/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Charism Sayat/AFP/Getty Images

Fishermen carry their outrigger to higher ground Friday in Legazpi City, south of Manila.

Charism Sayat/AFP/Getty Images

The country also reported it had 1,240 troops, 476 cargo ships, 130 transport vehicles and 88 disaster response teams positioned for the storm, which is being referred to as Ruby in the Philippines.

Haiyan, which hit the nation in November 2013, demolished about 1 million houses and displaced some 4 million people in the central Philippines, the AP reports. Hundreds of residents still living in tents in Tacloban have been prioritized in the current evacuation.

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