Super Typhoon Goni slammed into the eastern Philippines early Sunday, bringing heavy rainfall and "catastrophic violent winds," the weather bureau said.
The typhoon made landfall on Catanduanes Island at dawn with sustained winds of up to 225 kilometers per hour (140 miles per hour) before heading westward. It was expected to move towards heavily populated regions including the capital, Manila, as well as provinces that are still reeling from a typhoon that hit last week, claiming at least 22 lives.
A million residents in Goni's estimated path have already been evacuated and the main international airport has been closed.
The typhoon — equivalent to a Category 5 hurricane — is the world's strongest this year and is among the most powerful storms to hit the Philippines since Haiyan, which killed over 6,300 people in 2013.
"Within the next 12 hours, catastrophic violent winds and intense to torrential rainfall associated with the region of the eyewall and inner rain bands of the typhoon will be experienced,'' the Philippine weather agency said in an advisory.
According to the agency, four other provinces will be initially hit aside from Catanduanes. These include Albay, where thousands of people have been moved to safety, especially those residing near the active Mayon Volcano. Volcanic mudflows have killed people during past storms in the region.
Senator Christopher Go, the top aide of President Rodrigo Duterte, told a virtual news conference that the storm could hamper efforts to contain the coronavirus.
"We are having a hard time with COVID-19, and then here comes another disaster," he said, adding that local officials should ensure that the virus does not spread in evacuation centers.
Ricardo Jalad, executive director of the national disaster agency, told reporters that 1,000 COVID-19 patients — who are currently in large isolation tents in Manila and the nearby Bulacan province — could be shifted to hotels and hospitals.
The Philippines has the second-highest tally of COVID-19 infections and deaths in Southeast Asia.
Meanwhile, another typhoon — Atsani — with sustained winds of up to 55 kph and gusts of up to 70 kph is also gaining strength just outside the Philippines.
dvv/nm (AP, Reuters)