Super Typhoon Megi dumped heavy rains over the Philippine capital Tuesday after killing 10 people, creating a wasteland of fallen trees in the north and sending thousands scrambling to safety in near-zero visibility.
As it moved away from the Philippines, the strongest cyclone in years regained strength over the South China Sea on Tuesday while heading toward China and Vietnam, where recent floods unrelated to the storm already have caused 30 deaths.
Surging currents on Vietnam’s flooded main highway Monday swept away a bus and 20 of its passengers, including a boy pulled from his mother’s grasp. In China, authorities evacuated 140,000 people from a coastal province ahead of the typhoon, which Chinese officials said could hit the southern coast Thursday. Heavy rains have already lashed Hainan.
Megi packed sustained winds of 140 miles (225 kilometers) per hour and gusts of 162 mph (260 kph) as it made landfall Monday in the northern province of Isabela, felling trees and utility poles and cutting off power, phone and Internet services. Its ferocious wind slightly weakened while crossing the mountains of the Philippines’ main northern island of Luzon.
Iron-sheet roofs on many of the houses were blown away. In Isabela’s Tamauini town, Ariel Marzan said he escaped just minutes before his house tumbled amid winds so strong his roof was swept into a nearby rice field 30 yards (meters) away.
“I didn’t expect it to be so strong,” he said as he surveyed the damage and picked up the strewn pieces of his household.
Nearby coconut and banana groves were flattened.
Blowing over the open sea Tuesday, the typhoon’s massive outer bands still stretched over much of western Luzon and drenched the capital, Manila, and surrounding areas, snarling traffic and sending about 1,000 people out of their homes into temporary shelters.
In Isabela province, about 200 miles (320 kilometers) northeast of the capital, more than 8,000 people rode out the typhoon in sturdy school buildings, town halls, churches and relatives’ homes. Roads in and out of the coastal province were deserted and blocked by collapsed trees, power lines and debris.
At least 10 deaths were blamed on the typhoon, including three men who drowned in a fish pond where the typhoon made landfall, and a man who had just rescued his water buffalo then slipped and fell into a river in Cagayan province, near Isabela. A woman was pinned to death when a tamarind tree crushed her house and injured her child in Kalinga province, and a security guard died after being struck by a pine tree in nearby Baguio city, officials said.
In Pangasinan province, a mother, her 4-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son were pinned to death when a tree collapsed on their house, regional disaster official Eugene Cabrera said. Another man was killed by lightning in the same province.
At least nine were injured in the region by falling trees, collapsed roof and shattered glass, officials said.
President Benigno Aquino III said Tuesday that although the typhoon caused significant damage, the loss of life was minimal and “could have been much greater had we not prepared for the storm.”
“The work of bringing life back to normal in the soonest possible time is already under way,” he said.
There was near-zero visibility when the storm crashed ashore and radio reports said the wind was so powerful that people could not take more than a step at a time.
The entire Isabela province lost power along with 16 of Cagayan’s 28 towns. Cagayan Gov. Alvaro Antonio said the wind was fierce but blew high from the ground, sparing many rice fields ready for harvesting.
Although initial casualties were low compared to past storms, retired army Maj. Gen. Benito Ramos, who heads the country’s disaster-preparedness agency, expressed sadness over the deaths. Bracing for the typhoon, he said, was like “preparing for war”.
“This was tougher because in war, I could take a nap,” Mr. Ramos told The Associated Press.
In Vietnam, officials say up to 31.5 inches (800 millimeters) of rain have pounded areas in just a few days, forcing 126,000 people to flee their homes. Earlier flooding this month left more than 80 people dead or missing.
“People are exhausted,” Vietnamese disaster official Nguyen Ngoc Giai said by telephone from Quang Binh province. “Many people have not even returned to their flooded homes from previous flooding, while many others who returned home several days ago were forced to be evacuated again.”
The Honk Kong Observatory said Megi was expected to hit land Thursday. An official from the press office of the China Meteorological Administration said the typhoon could hit the coastlines of Guangdong and Hainan provinces on Thursday or Friday.
The meteorologists issued a second-highest alert for potential wild winds and huge waves. Nearly 140,000 people fled homes in the southern island province of Hainan, the official Xinhua News Agency reported Monday.
Thailand also reported flooding that killed at least four people and submerged thousands of homes. It also prompted the evacuation of nearly 100 elephants from a popular tourist attraction north of the capital.