Tens of thousands flee as super typhoon hits the Philippines

Date: 2021-12-16 19:43:21

Philippine Coast Guard officers wade through the chest-deep flood in Cagayan de Oro City in the southern Philippines to rescue a one-month-old baby. Heavy rains brought by Super Typhoon Rai caused a creek to swell and flooded some areas, triggering rescue operations to evacuate remaining residents trapped in their flooded homes.

Thousands of people in the Philippines fled their homes and beachfront resorts as Super Typhoon Rai pummelled the country Thursday, with a charity warning the storm could hit coastal communities “like a freight train”.

Rai is the strongest storm to hit the disaster-prone archipelago this year.

“This monster storm is frightening and threatens to hit coastal communities like a freight train,” said Alberto Bocanegra, head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in the Philippines.

The weather bureau warned “very destructive” winds could cause “heavy to very heavy damage to structures and vegetation”, along with widespread flooding and rain-induced landslides.

“Many typhoons have passed here before and it was fine — this one is different,” she told AFP. 

The typhoon weakened slightly as it swept over southern and central regions, knocking out power and communications in some areas and dumping heavy rain that inundated villages. 

Among the evacuees were domestic tourists visiting the country’s famed beaches and dive spots ahead of Christmas.

Verified video shot by tourists in Siargao showed trees swaying violently as people waited for the full impact of the typhoon.

In the city of Cagayan de Oro on the southern island of Mindanao, coast guard officers used an inflatable boat, life rings and a stretcher to rescue residents trapped in their flooded homes near a swollen creek. 

Scores of flights have been cancelled and dozens of ports temporarily closed as the weather bureau warned several metre-high storm surges could cause “life-threatening flooding” in low-lying coastal areas.

Weather forecaster Christopher Perez said the winds could “topple electric posts and trees” and damage houses made of light materials.

It is the second super typhoon to threaten the country since September when Chanthu grazed the northeastern tip of the main island of Luzon.

A super typhoon is also known as a category five hurricane in the United States.

Rai is expected to move across the Visayas region, and the Mindanao and Palawan islands, before emerging Saturday over the South China Sea and heading towards Vietnam.

The deadliest cyclone on record in the Philippines was Super Typhoon Haiyan, which left more than 7,300 people dead or missing in 2013.

Originally published as Tens of thousands flee as super typhoon hits the Philippines


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