SUPER Typhoon “Lawin,” one of the most powerful to ever hit the Philippines, killed at least eight people as it destroyed houses, tore roofs off schools and uprooted giant trees in northern Luzon on Thursday.
At least 18,157 families or 90,589 persons were preventively evacuated in various parts of Luzon as Lawin (international name “Haima”) struck late Wednesday night with winds similar to those of catastrophic typhoon “Yolanda” (“Haiyan”) in 2013.
Lawin was about to leave the Philippine area of responsibility as of the 5 p.m. report of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration.
The weather bureau lifted its warning signals except for Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union and Abra provinces which were placed under Tropical Cyclone Warning Signal No. 1.
It will take time to restore communication and power lines knocked down by the super typhoon in the Ilocos and Cagayan Valley regions, said Romina Marasigan, spokeswoman of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).
The Chico and Abra rivers reached critical level Thursday morning amid heavy rains, and a number of roads in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) were impassable because of landslides, debris flow and road slips, Marasigan said.
At least six road sections in Central Luzon and CAR were also reported not passable because of flooding and landslides, an NDRRMC report said.
Cagayan Gov. Manuel Mamba said it was difficult to determine the extent of the damage as the province experienced power and communication problems.
“Lawin’s howling winds shattered windows and tore off the roofs of various structures and houses in Tuguegarao as well as in other Cagayan towns,” Mamba said.
Isabela Gov. Faustino Dy 3rd said three towns in the province were isolated. There were no reports of storm surges in the coastal towns of Dinapigue, Maconacon, Divilacan and Palanan, he said.
“Lawin” roared across mountain and farming communities of the northern regions of Luzon overnight, causing widespread destruction and killing at least eight people, authorities said.
“The winds were so strong. They blew away our roof,” said Crecy Ramos, 46, a street stall owner in Ilagan, Isabela, which has a population of 130,000 people, as she started to repair her ramshackle home on Thursday afternoon.
“Everyone in our community had their roofs blown away.”
Lawin hit coastal towns facing the Pacific Ocean with sustained winds of 225 kilometers an hour, and wind gusts of up to 315 kilometers.
It weakened overnight as it rammed into giant mountain ranges and by Thursday morning had passed over the western edge of Luzon and into the South China Sea, heading towards southern China.
Jefferson Soriano, mayor of Tuguegarao, the capital of Cagayan where Lawin made landfall, reported badly damaged schools and gymnasiums where people had sought shelter.
“They are calling for help because the roofs have been torn off. The problem is, our rescuers here are unable to go out and help,” Soriano told DZMM radio before dawn while the storm was still raging.
Buried in a landslide
Authorities said two of those killed, aged 16 and 17, were buried in a landslide while sleeping in a house in Ifugao, a mountainous area that is home to stunning stepped rice terraces that are listed by the United Nations as a World Heritage site.
Two other people were buried in a shanty in another mountainous region, and one person was missing.
In Isabela province, there were two reported fatalities, one of whom died inside the evacuation center due to cardiac arrest and another pinned down by a tree while in a rescue operation.
In Bulacan, Lawin aggravated the flooding caused by Karen, with a total of 13 villages in two towns still flooded.
At 8:00 a.m. on Thursday, the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office said six villages in San Miguel town were still submerged under 1 to 3 feet of water while seven villages in the coastal town of Calumpit were under 1 to 2 feet of water.
Lawin was the second typhoon to hit the northern Philippines in a week, after typhoon “Karen” struck on Sunday, claiming at least one life and leaving three people missing.
In Hong Kong, the city’ seven million residents were preparing for more heavy rain and disruptive weather as Haima approached, following days of monsoon downpours.
Airlines in the regional travel hub warned of likely flight disruptions on Friday and Saturday.
At least 12 flights were cancelled on Thursday in Manila due to typhoon Lawin.
Philippine Airlines grounded the following flights: PR2014 (Manila-Tuguegarao), PR2015 (Tuguegarao-Manila), PR2084 (Manila-Basco), PR2085 (Basco-Manila), PR2196 (Manila-Laoag) and PR2197 (Laoag-Manila).
Cebu Pacific also announced flight cancellations because of the typhoon: 5J196 (Manila-Cauayan), 5J197 (Cauayan-Manila), 5J504 (Manila-Tuguegarao), 5J505 (Tuguegarao-Manila), 5J506 (Manila-Tuguegarao), and 5J507 (Tuguegarao-Manila).