MANILA (Reuters) – Typhoon Rai rapidly intensified to a Category 5 storm before making landfall in the southern Philippines on Thursday, forcing mass evacuations and flight cancellations as floodwaters reached chest-high in low-lying communities.
Rai, the 15th typhoon to enter Philippine territory this year, hit the holiday island of Siargao in the southern province of Surigao del Norte, packing maximum sustained winds of up to 195 km (121 miles) per hour, the Philippine weather bureau said.
Close to 100,000 people have fled their homes as the second-most powerful typhoon to strike the nation this year dumped heavy rains on southern islands on its way towards the central part of the archipelago.
The nation’s disaster agency said it had received reports of power outages and flooding in some areas, but there were no casualties so far.
Footage shared by the Philippine Coast Guard showed rescuers wading through chest-deep waters in the city of Cagayan de Oro on the northern coast of Mindanao, while ferrying residents in rubber boats.
“Filipinos are tough but this Super Typhoon is a bitter blow for millions of people who are still recovering from devastating storms, floods and COVID-19 in the past year,” Philippine Red Cross Chairman Richard Gordon said in a statement.
Airlines cancelled dozens of flights, while transport authorities banned sea and land travel in central and southern Philippines, leaving thousands stranded at ports.
The Southeast Asian nation postponed the start of a mass vaccination drive in most of the country because of the storm.
Around 20 tropical storms a year strike the Philippines, a nation of more than 7,600 islands, causing floods and landslides.
(Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales and Karen Lema; Editing by Ed Davies and Tom Hogue)