Hundreds of thousands of people have fled coastal villages as Typhoon Hagupit swept across the eastern and central Philippines. Power and telephone lines were reported to be down in many areas.
Typhoon Hagupit slammed into remote fishing communities in the eastern Philippines on Saturday night, bringing heavy rain and packing sustained winds of 160 kilometers per hour (100 mph) and gusts of up to 195 kilometers per hour.
The storm was reported to be making it way across the Philippines at a speed of about 15 kilometers per hour in a west-northwesterly direction. It was expected to take about three days to cut across the archipelago.
Hundreds of thousands of people have fled their homes to seek shelter in churches, schools or public gymnasiums. The DPA news agency cited the Philippines' national disaster risk management council, which said that more than 700,000 people had sought shelter in such public facilities. However, Reuters cited the secretary general of the Philippine Red Cross, Gwendolyn Pang, who put the figure at 1.2 million.
Power, communications down
Pang told AFP that when day broke on Sunday, many areas of the eastern Philippines were unreachable due to downed telephone and other communication lines, making it impossible to know how much damage had been caused.
Local radio reported that at least two people had been killed on the East of Samar Island, but this was not confirmed by official sources.
Social Work Secretary Corazon Soliman expressed concerns about sanitation in the cramped shelters.
"The critical issue is in evacuation centers where there is a high number of evacuees," Soliman said. "We are concerned that the congestion will cause more threat on health."
Tens of millions of people live in the path the typhoon is expected to follow, including in central regions still struggling to recover from Typhoon Haiyan, which took out entire towns 13 months ago, leaving more than 7,300 people either dead or missing and a further 4 million displaced.
pfd/mkg (AFP, dpa, Reuters)