TYPHOON Haima (local name Lawin) made landfall in the Philippines as expected late Wednesday night, bringing with it raging downpours and ferocious winds that uprooted trees.
Local media reports say an elderly man in Isabela died of a heart attack when the Category 4 storm, the strongest to hit the nation in three years, barreled into the province.
Isabela governor Faustino Dy confirmed the matter Thursday, and identified the 70-year-old man as Jose Malenap. Malenap died at the evacuation center in Santo Tomas town in Isabela, according to ABS-CBN.
— Josh Morgerman (@iCyclone) October 19, 2016
Dy, who was speaking during a phone interview with DZMM, also said that the typhoon’s strong winds terrified the thousands huddled in the center and nearly upended rescue vehicles at the peak of the onslaught between 10pm Wednesday and 4am Thursday.
“If we can compare this to our past experiences, this typhoon is really different. It is extremely strong. If you’ve seen the film ‘Twister’, it is like that. The winds almost toppled our rescue vans,” the governor was quoted saying.
“Our mayor was petrified. We were talking on the phone at around 2.30am. He told me, ‘Gov, how long will this typhoon last because we feel it lifting our evacuation center.’ It was really strong — it was not only strong but also pounded our province for hours on end,” Dy added.
— John Morales (@JohnMoralesNBC6) October 19, 2016
Shortly before Haima hit the Philippines, it was labelled a Category 5 super typhoon, reaching peak strength on Tuesday with sustained winds of 269 kph (167 mph).
The typhoon weakened later, however, and when it entered the Philippine Area of Responsibility, it was downgraded to Category 4, with winds of 220 kph (137 mph).
Despite the downgrade, however, residents, thousands of whom are currently taking shelter at evacuation centers, have been advised against letting their guards down.
Reports say the storm is expected to affect 2.7 million people in at least seven provinces and will last through Thursday.
Some flights and classes were suspended in anticipation of the storm, while the Philippine Coast Guard has banned sea travel and fishing.
According to Accuweather, Haima is forecast to track over the northern part of Luzon in northern Philippines. It said wind gusts over 275 kph (173 mph) are possible into Thursday, with widespread damage expected.
“Winds of this magnitude are capable of major structural damage, including completely removing exterior walls and roofs,” Accuweather wrote.
Power outages can also be expected, apart from heavy rains and uprooted trees.
It said this could linger long after the storm blows past the Philippines. Areas near and north of Haima’s center should also watch out for coastal flooding, Accuweather advised.
“In combination with gusty, onshore winds and high tides, feet of water could inundate areas near the coast,” it said.
— Andrew Miskelly (@andrewmiskelly) October 19, 2016
Meanwhile, aid agencies are on standby to offer assistance to those in need after the storm.
According to ABS-CBN, Save the Children has prepared stockpiles of relief items, including emergency shelter kits, hygiene kits, water and sanitation items. These are being held at warehouses and will be disbursed once needed.
“Typhoon Haima is bearing down on the northern Philippines and looks capable of causing significant damage to homes, and community infrastructure,” the aid agency’s country director for the Philippines Ned Olney was quoted saying before Haima hit.
“With such powerful winds and many homes situated along the coast, the potential for damage is high.”
— CARE Philippines (@CAREphl) October 19, 2016
— ABS-CBN News (@ABSCBNNews) October 20, 2016
Other aid agencies on standby include the Philippine Red Cross, in collaboration with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and children’s charity Plan International.
Haima is the second typhoon to hammer the Philippines in four days; on Sunday, Typhoon Sarika (local name Karen) slammed into the northeast in the Aurora province, killing at least three people.
It is also the 12th typhoon to hit the country this year.
In 2013, Super Typhoon Haiyan struck central Philippines, leaving major devastation in its wake, including the deaths of at least 6,000 people.