Already deemed responsible for three deaths, Typhoon Hagupit — called "Ruby" by locals — has ravaged the Philippine Islands, with torrential rainfall and sustained winds of up to 121 miles per hour. The storm, which made landfall on Saturday, has weakened in the day since its first struck, but is now moving at an excruciatingly slow rate across the country, causing concerns for possible landslides and flooding. Nearly 900,000 are now taking cover in shelters after being evacuated from their homes, and it is estimated that some 40 million Filipinos are in the storm's expected trajectory. Despite the damage wrought by Hagupit, preliminary reports seem to suggest that the destruction is nowhere near is catastrophic as last November's Typhoon Haiyan, which killed over 6,000.
Around 1,000 emergency shelters have been constructed at higher, safer ground across the islands, and the 120,000 members of the Philippine's military have prepared their response tactics to ensure the safety of Filipino citizens. Huge power outages are being reported across the country, with police Senior Inspector Alex Robin telling The Associated Press, "We are totally in the dark here. The only light comes from flashlights." The majority of the damage seems to be a product of the high winds and the continued rainfall, but compared to Haiyan, many island residents feel lucky.
Eastern Samar resident Cathy Añover's home was destroyed and her business was looted during last year's typhoon, and noted that the damage of Hagupit was considerably less severe. She told USA Today, "There is debris all over — some metal sheets that flew around, damaged banana trees and a few homes destroyed — it looks like a storm came through but nothing compared to Haiyan." She added later, "...I am thankful there was no surge and everyone is safe." Rhea Estuna, a 29-year-old mother who evacuated to Tacloban, echoed these sentiments, telling the AP, "There were no bodies scattered on the road, no big mounds of debris. Thanks to God this typhoon wasn't as violent."
The storm, approximately the equivalent of a Category 2 hurricane, is expected to dump nearly three-quarters of an inch of water per hour over the next several days as it makes its way across the Philippines. Relief trucks and other aid will begin to deliver supplies as roads are cleared from debris like tin roofs and trees that were downed by the powerful gusts. European Union commissioner for humanitarian aid, Christos Stylianides noted that regardless of outcome, the Philippines would have all the necessary assistance to deal with the storm's aftermath. Said Stylianides, "The Philippines are not alone as they brace up for a possible hardship."
Along with the United States, a dozen countries in the EU and across the world have dedicated response teams and aid meant for Hagupit and the Philippines, and everyone is "hoping that the impact will be less powerful than a year ago, when Typhoon Haiyan left a devastating imprint on the country."
The lessons Haiyan taught about preparedness have certainly not been forgotten, and evacuation efforts ahead of Hagupit went smoothly as planned, which may be part of the reason the death toll thus far has been so low. According to The AP,
Two people, including a baby girl, died of hypothermia in central Iloilo province Saturday at the height of the typhoon, Pama said at a news conference. Another person died after being hit by a falling tree in the eastern town of Dolores, where the typhoon first made landfall, according to Interior Secretary Mar Roxas.
Otherwise, however, the damage has been somewhat contained, but the storm is not yet over. "It's too early to tell," Philippine Red Cross Secretary-General Gwendolyn Pang said. "Let's cross our fingers that it will stay that way. It's too close to Christmas."
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