The world’s strongest storm so far this year slammed into the eastern part of the Philippines on Sunday, bringing “catastrophic violent winds” in what weather experts say is set to be the hardest landfall on record.
Super Typhoon Goni first hit land before dawn Sunday over Catanduanes province and then pummeled Albay, according to the weather bureau. The storm moving west at 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) an hour and is expected to cross southern Luzon and Metro Manila from the afternoon before exiting land tonight or Monday.
While Goni had weakened to a typhoon as of 8 a.m. local time, “catastrophic violent winds and intense to torrential rainfall associated with the region of the eyewall and inner rainbands of the typhoon is prevailing, or expected within the next 12 hours,” according to the weather bureau’s 11 a.m. advisory. “This a particularly dangerous situation.”
“Goni is the strongest landfalling tropical cyclone” in history, said Jeff Masters, a meteorologist with Yale Climate Connections and co-founder of Weather Underground. The previous record was held by Super Typhoons Meranti and Haiyan, which made landfall in the Philippines in 2016 and 2013 respectively.
Goni’s maximum sustained winds have weakened to 215 kilometers per hour while gusts have slowed to 295 kilometers per hour, down from 310 kilometers earlier Sunday, the bureau said. Dozens of areas, including Metro Manila, have been placed under storm alert.
Authorities shut Manila’s international airport to all flights for 24 hours from 10 a.m. local time. Flag carrier Philippine Airlines canceled 20 international and 25 domestic flights for Sunday and Monday, while Cebu Pacific scrapped 13 scheduled for Sunday.
About 347,000 people have been evacuated, according to Ricardo Jalad, executive director of the Philippines’ disaster risk-monitoring agency. Between 19 million to 31 million people could be affected by the storm, based on the population count in areas within its path, according to Mark Timbal, a spokesman at the same agency.
The social-welfare department said it has more than 880 million pesos ($18 million) in food packs and emergency kits available for distribution, while the military said at least 5,000 active personnel are ready for deployment.
Goni left the province of Albay without electricity as floods destroyed dikes, Governor Al Francis Bichara said at a briefing. Four people have died in the province so far, he said.
The storm felled power lines in Quezon, where at least one person is missing, and damage to crops could reach one billion pesos, said provincial Governor Danilo Suarez, who initiated forced evacuations.
Health Secretary Franciso Duque asked people to observe social-distancing measures in evacuation centers to prevent the spread of Covid-19. The Philippines has among the highest number of coronavirus cases in Southeast Asia.
Light railways in Manila have suspended operations while Ayala Land Inc., one of the nation’s biggest builders, said all its shopping malls in Luzon are shut.
The cyclone comes days after Typhoon Molave lashed the Southeast Asian nation, leaving at least 22 dead and causing a minimum of 1.8 billion pesos of damage to crops, before heading to Vietnam. Goni is following a similar route.
An average of 20 cyclones pass through disaster-prone Philippines every year, which will likely complicate the nation’s fight against the coronavirus as hundreds of thousands of people are evacuated from typhoon-hit areas. In 2013, Haiyan, one of the strongest typhoons recorded, struck the Southeast Asian nation and killed more than 6,300 people.
Coconut, rice and corn plantations may suffer severe losses. Typhoon Goni could damage more than 928,000 hectares of land planted with rice and 58,431 hectares of corn, the Department of Agriculture estimates.
The storm can have a “high humanitarian impact,” the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System said on its website, adding that nearly 50 million people are at risk.
Another typhoon, Atsani, is forecast to enter Philippine territory on Sunday but is less likely to bring severe weather, according to the nation’s weather forecaster.
The Philippines’ first catastrophe bond, which provides $150 million of tropical cyclone disaster insurance protection sourced from the capital markets, may be triggered, according to Artemis, which monitors catastrophe bonds, insurance-linked securities and weather risk markets.-Bloomberg
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