Super Typhoon Rai Hits the Philippines

MANILA — Typhoon Rai slammed into the southeastern part of the Philippines on Thursday, bringing heavy rains and flooding that displaced thousands over a large area.

The typhoon, the 15th major weather disturbance to hit the country this year, intensified rapidly in the morning and was classified as a super typhoon, with sustained winds of 120 miles per hour near the center and gusts of up to 168 miles per hour. The designation is similar to a Category 5 hurricane in the United States.

The Coast Guard said the situation in the south was dire, with rescuers reporting taking a baby to safety using a plastic basin. They also used rubber boats to ferry people to safety, as the waters quickly rose in Cagrayan de Oro, a city of 730,000 on Mindanao Island that is bisected by a major river system.

The Office of Civil Defense in Manila said that nearly 100,000 people in several regions had been moved to safer ground. There were no immediate reports of casualties, but communications were disrupted in many areas, making it hard to immediately assess the situation.

Casiano Monilla, a deputy administrator for the civil defense office, said many people were evacuated ahead of time, although there were many others who had yet to be reached.

“As we speak, Odette is currently wreaking havoc,” he said, using the local name for the storm (Rai is the international one). “Once it becomes permissible for our teams on the ground to give data, we will be able to apprise everyone.”

The storm was menacing the lower part of the Visayas, one of the Philippines’ three main island groups. It was forecast to exit into the South China Sea by Saturday.

In Dinagat Islands in the Visayas region, Gov. Arlene Bag-ao said mandatory evacuations had been going on since Wednesday. Rains had been falling over the area for two weeks before the storm, adding the risk of landslides to that of flooding.

“That’s why we’re scared; our soil is soft already,” Ms. Bag-ao told reporters.

In the province of Northern Samar, also in the Visayas, Gov. Ben Evardone reported that people were so used to typhoons that they initially refused to leave their homes.

“Some of them were subjected to forced evacuation because it’s already dangerous; we’re experiencing strong winds and heavy rains,” he said. Telecommunication lines were down, and electricity in the province was spotty at best.

Richard Gordon, a senator who is also the Philippine Red Cross chairman, said the coronavirus pandemic had made preparations doubly hard.

The Philippines sits on so-called typhoon belt, and is typically hit by about 20 storms in a year, some devastating.

The strongest super typhoon to hit the Philippines was Haiyan in 2013, which left more than 6,500 people dead or missing.

Gov. Arthur Yap of Bohol Province said officials had also pre-emptively evacuated residents from low-lying areas that were usually flooded during typhoons.


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