MANILA – Vongfong, the first typhoon of the season, has ravaged several islands of the central Philippines, making landfall six times in the first 24 hours of its passage through the country and ahead of its expected arrival in Manila on Friday.
The typhoon is bringing with it destructive winds and intense rainfall, according to the latest bulletin of the weather service PAGASA.
The met office issued a tropical cyclone wind signal number 3, the third-highest on a scale of 1 to 5, in the southern provinces of Luzon Island and level 2 in the central region, where the Manila metropolitan area is located.
Vongfong weakened slightly after making six landfalls with winds of 125 kilometers per hour (78 miles per hour) and gusts of up to 165 km/h.
The met department had recorded gusts of 180 km/h on Thursday in central Philippines that left the provinces of Samar Norte and Sorsogon without power and communication.
Despite weakening slightly, the typhoon’s wind speed may be fatal as it approaches Manila, a megacity where a quarter of its 13 million inhabitants live in overcrowded slums.
The Philippine National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said it did not have an accurate report of the damage and possible victims due to difficulties in communicating with the small island provinces.
However, it said it expected the impact to be high.
The typhoon, locally dubbed Ambo, entered the Philippines on Thursday through the town of San Policarpio on Samar Island, where some 400,000 people live in low-lying, coastal areas that are especially vulnerable to the passage of the storm, whose strength is equivalent to that of a Category 4 hurricane.
Vongfong is moving at a speed of 15 km/h as it heads towards the northern Philippines, which it is expected to leave Tuesday morning for Japan.
The Philippines is hit by between 15 and 20 typhoons each year during the rainy season, which usually begins in May or June and ends in November or December.
In November 2013, Haiyan, one of the most powerful typhoons ever to hit the Philippines – with winds up to 315 km/h – caused 6,300 deaths, with more than 1,000 people missing and 14 million affected.