Rain lashed parts of the Philippines on Saturday as Typhoon Hagupit barreled toward the coast, bringing roaring winds and the threat of massive storm surges.
Satellite images show the eye of the storm, which lost its super typhoon status again Saturday, about 250 kilometers (150 miles) off the eastern coast of the island nation.
The storm, the strongest so far this year, is expected to make landfall Saturday evening or Sunday morning, local time, over the Eastern Samar to Northern Samar area, according to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA).
It’s packing sustained winds of 195 kilometers an hour (313 miles per hour) near the storm’s center, with gusts of up to 230 kph (370mph).
Millions of people have been scrambling to get out the typhoon’s way, or battening down in hotels on higher ground, away from the coast.
Preparing for the worst
While current forecasts show the storm skirting north of Tacloban, the people there aren’t taking any chances.
They suffered enormously when Super Typhoon Haiyan smashed into the coast last November, killing more than 6,000 people and creating apocalyptic scenes of splintered houses, ships on streets and and debris piles for as far as the eye could see.
Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez said they’re better prepared this year after learning the lessons of Haiyan a year ago. Residents are taking the storm warnings seriously and most people have fled the city, he said.
This time, Hagupit, known locally as Typhoon Ruby, is expected to cross the coast farther north, toward Legazpi.
Officials there expected to evacuate an estimated 75,000 people ahead of the typhoon’s arrival, Mayor Noel Rosal said Friday.
“There’s a danger that there will be heavy rains for about four hours and I am very, very worried at this moment,” Rosal said.
Most forecasters predict the storm will move northwest through the island nation after landfall, passing south of the capital city of Manila. PAGASA projects that the storm will exit the country on Wednesday.
Hagupit, the name used by World Meteorological Organization, means “lash” in Filipino.
Fears over effects of the storm
With the storm fast approaching, authorities are not only worried about the typhoon itself, but the effects of the fierce winds, possible flooding and storm surge.
PAGASA warned of intense rainfall between 7.5 and 20 millimeters per hour and rough seas. It also warned of storm surge that could reach up to 5 meters (16 feet) high.
Multiple domestic flights on local carrier Cebu Air involving destinations such as Butuan, Surigao and Tandag on the east coast have been canceled due to weather.
Many Filipinos took to social media to spread warnings, urge each other to prepare and pray for the country.
“Hoping for the best, expecting the worst,” Twitter user jinglebelles17 posted.