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After rapidly intensifying on Monday night, Typhoon Rammasun, which is known as “Glenda” in the Philippines, made landfall near Sorsogon, Philippines, on the southeastern part of Luzon Island, at about 2 p.m. Tuesday, local time. It landed as a Category 3 storm with maximum sustained winds of about 125 miles per hour.
If Rammasun maintains its intensity for several more hours — which is not a sure bet — it could become the most intense typhoon to make a direct hit on Manila, a flood-prone metro area of 12 million people. Thousands have fled their homes in provinces outside Manila, and the city is preparing for a storm surge of 10 feet or more. The Philippine weather service, has placed metro Manila in a Signal 3 warning, the country’s highest typhoon warning designation.
Typhoon Rammasun, whose name means “thunder god” in Thai, plowed into the Philippines significantly stronger than the forecast had called for just 12 hours prior, which could have led residents to under-prepare for the storm. The Philippines’ first major typhoon of the season has churned across the country, passing close to the sprawling capital Manila on Wednesday and killing at least five people.
Typhoon Rammasun made landfall near Legazpi City on the country’s east coast late Tuesday. The typhoon, known locally as “Glenda,” prompted the evacuations of as many as 350,000 people from their homes in towns and cities across the country. Maria Ressa, Editor in Chief of the online news agency Rappler in Manila, said Wednesday morning that conditions in the city were extreme, with howling winds and strong rain. Several roofs had been ripped off by powerful winds. The closest the eye of the storm got to Manila was about 25 km south of the city around 7 a.m. Wednesday (7 p.m Tuesday ET).
Fears over storm surges eased as the typhoon began to move away from the city, weakening from a Category 2 storm to a Category 1, with maximum sustained winds of about 150 kilometers per hour. But concerns remained about the knock-on effects of the rain, including flooding and landslides. Marco Savio of Plan International spoke to CNN from Makati, Manila’s business district early Wednesday morning. He said that, at that time, more than an inch rain was falling per hour in the city, many areas of which are susceptible to flooding. “(The) majority are living in areas prone to floods. Schools are closed, offices and buildings (are) closed.”
According to a statement from the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the typhoon was expected to affect 43 million people spread across 22 provinces. Around 136,000 households within the affected area are in places highly susceptible to landslides and storm surge. Half of these households, the statement adds, about 342,200 people, are poor. Evacuations have taken place in vulnerable areas on a needs basis.
As the storm passed Legazpi, James Reynolds, a freelance videographer who spent the night in the city, ventured out and saw what he described as a “community effort” to clear the fallen trees and power lines, and repair some of the property damage. “The buildings made of solid concrete are OK, but a lot of buildings, windows have been blown out, doors blown out and some of the lighter structures that people live in haven’t fared so well but generally its not as bad as it could have been.
The Philippines is hit by an average of eight or nine storms a year. Rammasun is the first to hit since last year’s Typhoon Haiyan killed more than 6,250 people, left more than 1,000 missing and caused widespread destruction.