World

Super typhoon makes landfall in the Philippines

A volunteer passed by packs of relief goods in a gym in Tuguegarao City, Philippines.
Associated Press/Aaron Favila
A volunteer passed by packs of relief goods in a gym in Tuguegarao City, Philippines.

MANILA — A powerful typhoon that packed winds as high as 170 miles per hour slammed the northern Philippines early Saturday with an intensity not seen since Typhoon Haiyan ravaged the center of the country in 2013, killing more than 6,000 people.

Heavy rainfall and whipping winds were reported on the island’s eastern coast as Super Typhoon Mangkhut, the equivalent of a Category 5 hurricane, made landfall on the northern island of Luzon at 1:40 a.m. local time.

The maximum sustained wind speed of the typhoon slowed to about 120 miles per hour as it reached Luzon’s shores, weather bulletins said, but its power to destroy was no less lethal.

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Thousands of people had evacuated their homes and stockpiled emergency supplies in frantic preparation for the possibility of a major disaster.

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The new storm hit a less densely populated, less vulnerable area than the one plundered by Haiyan. Still, government officials, hoping to avoid anything like that storm’s devastation, pleaded with vulnerable residents to move to shelters before the storm, fearing drenching rains and devastating mudslides along the island’s mountainous coastlines.

Luzon is the Philippines’ largest and most populous island, but the northern tip is largely agricultural and is known as the country’s breadbasket.

More than 4 million people live in the area.

Officials warned of severe flooding and extremely high winds, with rainfall of as much as 6 to 10 inches in certain areas. Mindful of the chaos that followed Haiyan, the government deployed emergency teams, communications systems and supplies, including food and water, to the threatened area.

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Storm surges as high as 20 feet were expected, and officials warned fishermen and owners of small boats against taking out their craft.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines called on churches throughout the predominantly Catholic country to recite a prayer for deliverance from calamities.

The storm moved across the Sierra Madre, a Luzon mountain range, and over the Cagayan Valley, one of the country’s largest agricultural regions and a major producer of rice, corn and vegetables.

Heavy flooding or other damage could cripple the country’s food supply.

The Philippines’ benchmark stock index was the worst performer in Asia on Friday, as investors feared the storm would exacerbate inflationary pressures in the country.

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The first large Cagayan Valley community in its path is Peñablanca, a town of about 50,000 people.

From Cagayan Valley, the typhoon, known as Ompong in the Philippines, is expected to reach the Cordillera mountains, an even wider and taller range with one peak of more than 9,500 feet.

If the mountains do not alter its course, the typhoon is projected to pass over Laoag City, with about 100,000 people, in Ilocos Norte province, before leaving the Philippines and heading toward Hong Kong, southern China and northern Vietnam.

All told, it will traverse a distance of roughly 120 miles over Luzon if it sticks to its projected path.

Throughout the region, thousands of people took shelter in temporary evacuation centers, fortifying their homes by placing wood over the windows and stockpiling emergency food, water and medical supplies.

Aid groups such as Oxfam and Save the Children Philippines, which both have experience in Philippine disaster relief efforts, were also preparing to provide assistance.

Rhona Daoang, a spokeswoman for the Ilocos Norte provincial government, said it was taking measures to prevent widespread loss of life.