LEGAZPI, Philippines: A super typhoon barrelled into the southern part of the Philippines' main island of Luzon on Sunday (Nov 1), bringing "catastrophic" violent winds and intense rains with two landfalls so far, the weather bureau said.
Typhoon Goni is the world's strongest storm so far this year, gaining further strength with 225kmh sustained winds and gusts of up to 310kmh.
Philippine authorities evacuated nearly a million people to safer ground before Goni approached the eastern provinces and made landfall in Catanduanes and Albay in the Bicol region.
The weather bureau said "catastrophic violent winds and intense to torrential rainfall" were expected to prevail over Bicol provinces as well as portions of Quezon, Laguna and Batangas, south of the capital Manila.
"This is a particularly dangerous situation for these areas," it said in a bulletin at 0000 GMT.
The capital Manila was also in the projected path of Goni, the 18th tropical storm in the country.
A third landfall was expected to hit Quezon province later in the day, weather forecaster Lorie dela Cruz told a radio station.
Between 19 million and 31 million people could be affected, including those in danger zones, the disaster management agency said.
Storm surge alerts have been issued, while officials have also reminded those in evacuation centres to observe social distancing as the coronavirus spread is also a concern.
Dozens of international and domestic flights have been cancelled as the civil aviation authority ordered a one-day closure of Manila's main gateway, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
"It looks like we will have really strong winds, increasing the chances of widespread flooding and landslides," Mark Timbal, spokesman for the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, told local broadcaster ABS-CBN on Saturday.
"Storm surges are imminent on our east coast. We are monitoring Mayon and Taal volcanoes for possible volcanic mud flows."
Civil Defense chief Ricardo Jalad said "almost a million" people had left their homes in the Bicol region.
Authorities spent Saturday marshalling rescue vehicles, emergency response teams and relief goods before the storm's arrival.
COVID-19 COMPLICATES EVACUATIONS
Schools which have been empty since the start of the coronavirus pandemic are being used as emergency shelters as are government-run evacuation centres and gymnasiums.
"Evacuating people is more difficult at this time because of COVID-19," Bicol regional civil defence spokesman Alexis Naz told AFP.
Mary Ann Echague, 23, and her family fled their home in the coastal city of Legazpi to an inland primary school where they were sheltering in a classroom with several other families.
"We fear the wrath of the typhoon," said Echague, who was with her two children, parents and siblings. They had carried with them a portable stove, tinned meat, instant noodles, coffee, bread, blankets and pillows.
"Each time we're hit by a typhoon our house gets damaged, since it's made of wood and galvanised iron roofing," she said.
"We have always managed. We find a way to get by."
Hundreds of people have been left stranded after the coastguard ordered ferries and fishing boats into port in expectation of rough seas throwing up 16-metre waves.
Goni is expected to weaken as it crosses southern Luzon and enters the South China Sea early Monday, the state forecaster said.
Goni is among the strongest typhoons to hit the Philippines since Haiyan, which killed more than 6,300 people in 2013.
It follows Typhoon Molave, which hit the Philippines last month killing 22 people, mostly through drowning in provinces south of Manila.
Its deadliest on record was Typhoon Haiyan, which unleashed giant waves on the central city of Tacloban and left more than 7,300 people dead or missing in 2013.
The Philippines is hit by an average of 20 storms and typhoons every year, which typically wipe out harvests, homes and infrastructure, keeping millions of people perennially poor.