Typhoon disaster averted as lessons learned

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Typhoon Hagupit knocked out power in coastal provinces, mowed down trees and sent more than 650,000 people into shelters as it roared through the Philippines, but lessons from last year’s disaster seem to have avoided mass deaths.

Hagupit slammed into Eastern Samar province in the central Philippines then lost strength as it barrelled westward across a string of island provinces. It was packing maximum sustained winds of 87 mph and gusts of 106 mph, considerably weaker from its peak power, but still a potentially deadly storm, according to forecasters.

Traumatised by Typhoon Haiyan’s massive death and destruction last year in the central region that is being partly whipped by Hagupit, more than 650,000 people readily fled to about 1,000 emergency shelters and safer ground. The government, backed by the 120,000-strong military, launched massive preparations to attain a zero-casualty target.

Authorities were verifying reports of some deaths but none had been confirmed so far, Mr Pama added.

While authorities have expressed relief so far, they were quick to warn that Hagupit – Filipino for “smash” or “lash” – was still on course to cross three major central islands before starting to blow away into the South China Sea on Tuesday.

Several typhoon-lashed eastern villages isolated by downed telephone and power lines were out of contact, welfare secretary Dinky Soliman said.

“It’s too early to tell,” Philippine Red Cross secretary general Gwendolyn Pang said. “Let’s cross our fingers that it will stay that way. ”

In Tacloban city, where Haiyan’s tsunami-like storm surges and killer winds left thousands of people dead and destroyed entire villages, no deaths were reported after it was grazed by Hagupit.