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

Typhoon Goni is barrelling across the Philippines, bringing with it "catastrophic" winds and rain.

At least seven people have died amid reports of storm surges, flash floods, power outages and blown-off roofs.

Goni made landfall as a super typhoon at Catanduanes island on Sunday at 04:50 local time (19:50 GMT Saturday) packing winds of 225km/h (140mph).

It has since weakened, but is still wreaking damage across the main Luzon island, home to the capital Manila.

Mark Timbal of the Philippines' national disaster agency said that 19 million people may have been affected by the path of Goni. "This 19 million already includes the populations in danger zones for landslides, flooding, storm surges and even a lava flow," he told the BBC.

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.

Video footage showed storm surges through coastal towns, and local governors spoke of power supply outages, roofs torn off evacuation centers, damage to infrastructure, flash flooding and blocked roads.

Seven 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 killed by a falling tree.

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

Forecasters on Sunday morning had warned of "catastrophic violent winds and intense to torrential rainfall" as Goni made landfall in eastern Luzon.

By Sunday evening, Goni was moving westward at 25km/h, with maximum sustained winds of 125km/h, forecasters said.

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 barreled 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 defense 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 centers were being used for covid-secure emergency shelters.

"Evacuating people is more difficult at this time because of Covid-19," Bicol regional civil defense 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.

The Red Cross said it had also put emergency response teams, first aid, hygiene kits and other relief supplies in position ahead of the storm's arrival.

"People affected by Typhoon Goni were still reeling from the impacts of three previous cyclones that came in October," said Robert Kaufman of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent in the Philippines.

"The Red Cross is ensuring that their urgent needs are supported amid the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic."



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