Updated at 11 a.m. ET on 2018-09-15
Typhoon Mangkhut made landfall Saturday, ripping off roofs, cutting power and communication lines and endangering the lives of millions of Filipinos who were preemptively evacuated.
The storm slammed into the coastal town of Baggao in the northeastern province of Cagayan at dawn and by noon its eye was out of the Philippine landmass, though strong winds continued to buffet large parts of the country.
“As much as possible, stay indoors. It can lift cars, you can’t stand, you can’t even crawl against that wind,” state weather forecaster Chris Perez said, adding about 4 million people have been in the path of the storm.
A BenarNews team traveled to populated areas in the north on Friday and reported heavy rain in some parts of Tuguegarao city. Thousands have been evacuated to government shelters away from rivers and the coast.
Tin roofs were seen flying in the streets, while small trees littered the area. In Manila, part of a bayside highway was submerged in water, although the storm appears to have caused less damage than feared.
The Philippine National Police reported Saturday that at least five people had been killed by the typhoon, including a young girl who drowned in Marikina River, in eastern Manila. Two other people were reported missing in the northern province of Benguet
Power was out in many northern areas and some areas were cut off by debris and fallen trees. In the northern mountain city of Baguio, landslides had cut off some areas – a common occurrence during storm season.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on Saturday expressed concern for children and families who had sought shelters in temporary evacuation sites. Other international non-government organizations also sent teams days ahead of the storm’s landfall.
Red Cross teams had fanned out in northern Luzon days ahead of the typhoon, which had threatened to bring widespread damage because storm forecasts showed a wide rain band of about 900 km (56 miles) in diameter. It had released about U.S. $86,000 (4.6 million pesos) to augment the government’s disaster relief fund.
The Philippines sits on a typhoon belt and endures up to 20 storms a year, some of them devastating.
In 2012, more than 1,000 people died as Typhoon Bopha swept across eastern Mindanao bringing with it winds gusting up to 200 kph (124 mph). A year earlier, more than 600 died when typhoon Washi slammed into the southern island. Last year, Typhoon Haima hit the country.
In November 2013, Supertyphoon Haiyan left at least 6,300 people dead and scores missing. With winds of up to 235 kph (146 mph), Haiyan blew away homes and triggered massive flooding.
Five years later, many areas in the central Philippines are suffering from its long-term effects.
Lessons learned from previous storms helped the country prepare for this one, officials said.
Social welfare secretary Virginia Orago said relief goods had been prepositioned in hard-to-reach remote areas days before the storm’s onslaught.
“Last time, during Typhoon Lawin (Filipino name of Haima) we could not immediately reach some people in the hinterlands,” Orago said in a briefing. “But there are volunteers there now.”