A powerful super typhoon pounded the coast of the Philippines late Wednesday, and aid groups say they are preparing for possible wide-scale damage.
Super Typhoon Haima unleashed maximum sustained winds of 140 mph, with gusts reaching up to 195 mph. It made landfall at about 11 p.m. local time on Wednesday in Peñablanca, in the northern tip of the country, according to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration.
“Many villages lost power and intense winds tore tin roofs off houses,” The Associated Press reported, and thousands of residents evacuated impacted areas in the north of the country. “Officials were concerned because the powerful typhoon struck at night and is expected to hit towns and cities amid power outages.”
Six provinces in the north of the country are under the highest possible storm warning, the news service adds. It says this means “powerful winds could inflict ‘very heavy to widespread damage’ and whip up storm surges of up to five meters (16 feet), enough to engulf shanties in many rural communities.”
The Philippines frequently experiences typhoons. In 2013, Typhoon Haiyan killed more than 6,000 people — it was one of the strongest storms ever recorded at landfall, as NPR reported.
The Philippine Red Cross said that “coming in [days] after Typhoon Karen and just a month after Typhoon Ferdie, [Haima] is expected to cross almost the same path as the two [typhoons] before it, and is expected to cause landslides, flooding and displacement families.” The group said it is on “high alert” and has called in all their volunteers, responders and rescuers to help.
Concern is also mounting about how the storm could impact the country’s food supply. The Red Cross says Haima is projected to move through central Luzon, home to most of the country’s rice fields. “The country’s major river and catch basins are also located in Luzon, which could overflow if heavy rains continue,” the Red Cross added.
Ned Olney, Save the Children’s country director, said that “Typhoon Haima is bearing down on the northern Philippines and looks capable of causing significant damage to homes, and community infrastructure.” He said the aid agency is particularly concerned about the storm’s impact on children.
This graphic, from government forecaster PAGASA, shows the storm’s expected path. It’s expected to cross the northern tip of the country before moving into the South China Sea on Thursday. Haima is then projected to rapidly lose power over China’s mainland.