One of the most powerful typhoons to ever hit the Philippines destroyed houses, tore roofs off schools and ripped giant trees out of the ground on Thursday, but there were no immediate reports of deaths.
Super Typhoon Haima hit the northern province of Cagayan late on Wednesday night with winds almost on a par with catastrophic Haiyan, which was then the strongest storm to strike the disaster-prone Southeast Asian archipelago and claimed more than 7,350 lives in 2013.
Haima roared across mountain and farming communities of the northern regions of the main island of Luzon overnight, and by morning a picture was emerging of widescale destruction.
“Rice and corn plants as far as the eye can see are flattened,” Villamor Visaya, a university teacher in Ilagan, one of the main northern cities with a population of 130,000 people, told AFP by telephone.
Haima hit coastal towns facing the Pacific Ocean with sustained winds of 225 kilometres (140 miles) an hour, and wind gusts of up to 315 kilometres.
It weakened overnight as it rammed into giant mountain ranges and by 9:00 am (0100 GMT) on Thursday was leaving the western edge of Luzon, heading towards southern China.
Jefferson Soriano, mayor of Tuguegarao, the capital of Cagayan where Haima made landfall, reported badly damaged schools and gymnasiums where people had sought shelter.
“They are calling for help because the roofs have been torn off. The problem is, our rescuers here are unable to go out and help,” Soriana told DZMM radio before dawn while the storm was still raging.
President Rodrigo Duterte said on Wednesday night all possible preparations had been made for Haima, with tens of thousands of people evacuated, but he still struck an ominous tone.
“We only pray we be spared the destruction such as the previous times, which brought agony and suffering,” Duterte said in Beijing, where he was on a state visit.
“But we are ready. Everything has been deployed.”
About 10 million people across the northern parts of Luzon were at risk, the government’s disaster risk management agency said on Wednesday.
Haima was the second typhoon to hit the northern Philippines in a week, after Sarika struck on Sunday claiming at least one life and leaving three people missing.