Typhoon Mangkhut roared through the Philippines on Saturday, after tens of thousands of people evacuated their homes to escape the 550-mile-wide storm. More than 20 hours after landfall, at least 16 deaths were reported, but there were no signs of the kind of devastation wreaked by Typhoon Haiyan five years ago.
Still, officials had barely begun to assess the damage. Some places could not be contacted because of communication outages, and several provinces had suffered complete power blackouts.
The ferocity of the storm — which arrived at 1:40 a.m. local time with maximum sustained winds of around 120 miles per hour — in some ways eclipsed Hurricane Florence on the other side of the world, which was pummeling the Mid-Atlantic Coast of the United States with life-threatening rains and flooding.
By 8 p.m., Mangkhut’s eye had crossed Luzon, the Philippines’ largest island, and was about 150 miles off its west coast, headed for Hong Kong and southern China, according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center of the United States Navy. The typhoon was largely maintaining strength, with gusts of up to 150 m.p.h., the agency said.
A top Philippine official, Francis Tolentino, said at least 16 people had been killed, including a family of four caught in a landslide in their home in the Cordillera mountains. Local news media reported that landslides also killed two rescue workers.
The police said the body of one victim, a young girl, was found in the Marikina River in the eastern part of metropolitan Manila, though the densely populated capital region seemed to have been spared major damage.
Storm pounds northern Luzon
Strong winds and heavy rain battered northern and central Luzon as the eye of Typhoon Mangkhut slammed into the island, the largest and most populous in the Philippines, in the early morning hours of Saturday.
The eye made landfall over Baggao in Cagayan Province and moved west across the country, hitting the opposite coast near Laoag City less than eight hours later.
The authorities said more than 105,000 people had taken shelter in evacuation centers as the typhoon was nearing.
Much of the planning for Mangkhut was informed by lessons learned from Typhoon Haiyan, the devastating 2013 storm that killed 6,000 people and left more than four million homeless.
Driving along the coast, amid flying debris
The New York Times reporters Hannah Beech and Kimberly dela Cruz traveled along Luzon’s western and northern coasts on Saturday. Foliage, trees and rolling coconuts were strewn across the roads, which were deserted except for volunteer crews removing debris to make them passable and the occasional emergency vehicle.
In one community after another, they reported seeing downed trees and badly damaged buildings. Signs, tin roofs and gates that had been torn free flew about.
In Claveria, a corn- and rice-growing area on the northern coast, the Antonio family had fled their home about 1 a.m. for sturdier shelter. Marck James Antonio, 24, stayed behind and was struck and gashed in the right temple by flying debris but was conscious and moving around.
“This was the strongest and the worst storm that I’ve ever experienced in my life,” said his mother, Teresita Antonio, 54. “I was crying before because I don’t know how I will be able to afford to fix my house.”
“It was shaking like an earthquake,” said another resident, Robert Tumaneng, 55, a fish farmer. From a road above, the area where the fish ponds once were looked like a giant lake, with the tips submerged palm trees and thatched roofs sticking out.
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SOURCE: New York Times