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Typhoon Hagupit pummels Philippines
December 7, 2014, 11:15 am
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Typhoon Hagupit has torn apart homes and sent waves crashing through coastal communities across the eastern and central Philippines, creating more misery for millions following a barrage of deadly disasters.

The typhoon roared in from the Pacific Ocean and crashed into remote fishing communities of Samar island on Saturday night, but has weakened from 210-km to 165-km an hour, as it continued to tear through the country on Sunday, bringing heavy rains.

Millions at risk as Hagupit threatens the Philippines

The wind strength made Hagupit the most powerful storm to hit the Philippines this year, exceeding a typhoon in July that killed more than 100 people. "Tin roofs are flying off, trees are falling and there is some flooding," Stephany Uy-Tan, the mayor of Catbalogan, a major city on Samar, told the AFP news agency.

According to reports from news agencies and local media, close to a million people had fled to shelters in areas along the path of the typhoon. So far, the provinces of Albay, Camarines Sur and Masbate have declared a state of emergency.

Al Jazeera's Andrew Thomas, reporting from capital Manila, said that the storm had made another landfall in the central island of Masbate, but had slightly weakened as it moved northwest.

Witnesses from Masbate, however, told our correspondent that roads had been blocked from typhoon debris, making it difficult to deliver food packages to evacuees.

Meanwhile, Al Jazeera's Scott Heidler, reporting from Albay Province, another area on the path of the typhoon, said that so far there were no reports of casualties.

In a statement to Al Jazeera, the UN office in Manila said the humanitarian needs in the Philippines would not be fully known until Hagupit passes over.

Fearful of a repeat of last year when Super Typhoon Haiyan claimed more than 7,350 lives, the government undertook a massive evacuation effort ahead of Hagupit that saw millions of people seek shelter.

"The government is absolutely determined to do better this," Al Jazeera's Thomas said.

Hagupit was forecast to take days to cut across the Philippines, passing over mostly poor central regions, while also bringing heavy rain to the densely-populated capital of Manila slightly to the north.

Al Jazeera senior weather presenter, Steff Gaulter said that as of 0700 GMT on Sunday, Hagupit was tracking westwards.

"Unfortunately the storm is moving very slowly and is not expected to clear the Philippines until 18 GMT on Monday. This means that the storm will be over the country for a prolonged period and this will exacerbate the flooding problems ."

Tens of millions of people live in the typhoon's path, including those in the central Philippines who are still struggling to recover from the devastation of Haiyan, which hit 13 months ago.

Terrifying winds and waves

As day broke on Sunday, many areas across the eastern Philippines were uncontactable and it was impossible to know how badly they were damaged, Red Cross secretary general Gwendolyn Pang told AFP.

In those that were reachable, residents and officials reported terrifying winds and waves that destroyed homes, although with most people in evacuation centres there were hopes casualties would be few.

In Tacloban, one of the cities worst-hit by Haiyan, palm-thatch temporary houses built by aid agencies for survivors of last year's typhoon had been torn apart, vice mayor Jerry Yaokasin said.

There was no repeat of the storm surges that did the most damage during Haiyan, known locally as Yolanda.

"There is a collective sigh of relief. The initial assessment is that there are no casualties. We were better prepared after Yolanda, up to 50,000 people were packed in evacuation centres," he said.

The Philippines endures about 20 major storms a year which, along with regular earthquakes and volcano eruptions, make it one of the world's most disaster-plagued countries.

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