No major damage in Philippine typhoon; 2 dead

By Teresa Cerojano, AP

LEGAZPI, Philippines–Typhoon Hagupit knocked out power, left at least two people dead and sent nearly 900,000 into shelters before it weakened Sunday, sparing the central Philippines the type of massive devastation that a monster storm brought to the region last year.

Shallow floods, damaged shanties and ripped off store signs and tin roofs were a common sight across the region, but there was no major destruction after Hagupit slammed into Eastern Samar and other island provinces. It was packing maximum sustained winds of 140 kilometers (87 miles) per hour and gusts of 170 kph (106 mph) on Sunday, considerably weaker from its peak power but still a potentially deadly storm, according to forecasters.

Haiyan’s tsunami-like storm surges and killer winds left thousands of people dead and leveled entire villages, most of them in and around Tacloban.

Nearly a dozen countries, led by the United States and the European Union, have pledged to help in case of a catastrophe from Hagupit (pronounced HA’-goo-pit), disaster-response agency chief Alexander Pama said.

The EU commissioner for humanitarian aid, Christos Stylianides, said a team of experts would be deployed to help assess the damage and needed response.

Two people, including a baby girl, died of hypothermia in central Iloilo province Saturday at the height of the typhoon, Pama said at a news conference.

Two women were injured when the tricycle taxi they were riding was struck by a falling tree in central Negros Oriental province.

Displaced villagers were asked to return home from emergency shelters in provinces where the danger posed by the typhoon had waned, including Albay, where more than half a million people were advised to leave evacuation sites.

Nearly 12,000 villagers, however, will remain in government shelters in Albay because their homes lie near a restive volcano.

Like many others in Albay, southeast of Manila, Marline Conde has lived a tough life dodging typhoons like Hagupit and seasonal eruptions of Mayon, the country’s most active volcano.

The 50-year-old mother of six did not have to be moved to an emergency shelter ahead of Hagupit �X she was already encamped in one with her family since October, when Mayon turned restive.

While officials expressed relief that the typhoon had not caused major damage, they were quick to warn that Hagupit �X Filipino for ��smash�� or ��lash�� �X was still on course to barrel across three major central Philippine islands before starting to blow away Tuesday into the South China Sea.

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

Army troops deployed to supermarkets and major roads in provinces in the typhoon’s path to prevent looting and chaos and clear debris, all of which slowed the government’s response to Haiyan last year.

Unlike major storms in past years, many people readily left high-risk communities ahead of Hagupit, Soliman said.