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Typhoon Goni: Philippines hit by year’s most powerful storm

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Typhoon Goni is barrelling across the Philippines, bringing with it “catastrophic” 225km/h (140mph) winds and torrential rainfall.

At least four people are reported to have died. Homes have been damaged and roads inundated with flash flooding.

Goni made landfall as a super typhoon at Catanduanes island on Sunday at 04:50 local time (19:50 GMT Saturday).

It has since weakened as it crosses the main island of Luzon, where the capital Manila is located.

But forecasters, in a severe weather bulletin, still warned of “catastrophic violent winds and intense to torrential rainfall” as well as flash-flooding, landslides and “sediment-laden streamflows”.

Goni – known as Rolly in the Philippines – is the most powerful storm to hit the country since Typhoon Haiyan killed more than 6,000 people in 2013.

What do we know of the damage so far?

The BBC’s Howard Johnson in Manila says there is concern for the small town of Virac on Catanduanes island, home to some 70,000, where contact has been lost since Goni made landfall.

Images from social media show tin roofs ripped from homes along Goni’s path, and local governors have spoken of power supply outages, roofs torn off evacuation centres, damage to infrastructure, flash flooding and blocked roads.

Four people, including a five-year-old child in Albay province, are reported to have died; two drowned, another was swept away by volcanic mud and another by a a falling tree.

“The winds are fierce. We can hear the trees being pummelled. It’s very strong,” Francia Mae Borras, 21, told AFP from her home in Albay’s coastal city of Legazpi.

How did the Philippines prepare?

The Philippines is used to powerful storms – it is hit by an average of 20 storms and typhoons a year and lost 22 people when Typhoon Molave barrelled through the same region last week.

But this year preparations have been complicated by the Covid-19 virus, which has already caused 380,739 infections and led to 7,221 deaths in the Philippines. 

Some 347,000 people were evacuated, civil defence chief Ricardo Jalad said – revising down the one million figure he mentioned ahead of the storm.

Coronavirus patients being treated in isolation tents had been evacuated, officials said.

Ports and airports were shut, and schools, gyms and government-run evacuation centres were being used for covid-secure emergency shelters.

“Evacuating people is more difficult at this time because of Covid-19,” Bicol regional civil defence spokesman Alexis Naz told AFP on Saturday.

Relief goods, heavy machinery and personal protective equipment were being moved into areas of need, but a local mayor in Quezon province said the pandemic had depleted their funds for disaster emergencies.