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Typhoon Goni, expected to be the strongest storm to hit the Philippines this year, made landfall early Sunday with weather officials predicting “catastrophic wind damage” as it roared through the country.
The warning came as emergency response teams backed by the Philippine police and military scrambled to prepare. Winds were expected to be particularly strong in Catanduanes Province and other areas, Pagasa, the national weather agency, said in tweet it posted Sunday morning.
“Within the next 12 hours, catastrophic violent winds and intense to torrential rainfall associated with the region of the eyewall and inner rain bands of the typhoon will be experienced,” the agency said in a separate advisory.
The center of the eye of Goni made landfall as a super typhoon at 4:50 a.m. in Catanduanes, an island province, Pagasa said. Its path was expected to take it through Luzon, the country’s most populous island, and the country’s capital region.
Typhoon Goni had sustained winds of 135 miles per hour at its center and gusts of 165 miles per hour as of early Sunday, prompting the Joint Typhoon Warning Center to categorize the storm as a super typhoon.
The eye of the storm — which Philippine officials are calling Typhoon Rolly under their separate naming system — was expected to pass near Metro Manila, the capital region and home to more than 24 million people.
“We are forecasting widespread destruction even if this does not turn out to become a super typhoon,” Ricardo Jalad, the chief of the government’s National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, said Saturday on state television.
Along with violent winds and torrential rain, storm surges along the coast were expected, the Philippine weather agency said.
Goni, the 18th typhoon to strike the Philippines this year, arrives just days after Typhoon Molave tore through the country, dumping heavy rain and causing significant flooding. Molave killed 22 people and forced the evacuation of tens of thousands before moving on to Vietnam, where it caused deadly landslides.
Mr. Jalad of the disaster management agency said that evacuations in areas threatened by Goni began on Friday. Nearly a million people in southern Luzon had already been evacuated as of Saturday, the agency reported.
Local officials could order forced evacuations if necessary, Mr. Jalad said.
“If they see that their constituents are facing danger, they are empowered to carry out forced evacuations with the help of the Philippine National Police and other uniformed services,” Mr. Jalad said. There had been “avoidable casualties” during Typhoon Molave, he added, because some people had ignored warnings.
The Philippines is hit by at least 20 tropical storms and typhoons every year, some of them deadly. Thousands were killed in November 2013 when Super Typhoon Haiyan tore through the central Philippines.
The Philippine Red Cross stationed rescue vehicles and emergency response teams across Luzon.
“We are determined to do all we can to help these communities prepare for the oncoming storm,” said Richard Gordon, the Red Cross chairman.
He said the disasters complicated the country’s response to Covid-19, which has infected more than 370,000 people and killed 7,185. Evacuation centers can make social distancing more challenging than usual.
The Philippine military said that it, too, had deployed emergency response units in areas expected to be hit by the typhoon.