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One million flee homes as islands in Philippines are hit by typhoon

By Staff Reporter

A powerful typhoon destroyed homes and flooded low-lying coastal villages in the Philippines, forcing a million people to flee to safety and leaving at least three dead.

After making landfall in the east and beginning its destructive path across the archipelago, the typhoon toppled power lines, caused torrential downpours and destroyed some of the makeshift palm thatch houses of those who had been left homeless after last year's devastating storms.

The national disaster co-ordination agency said a one-year-old girl and a 65-year-old man had died in the city of Iloilo, while other reports said a 75-year-old woman had died elsewhere.

"Many houses, especially in the coastal areas, were blown away by strong winds," Stephany Uy-Tan, the mayor of Catbalogan on the island of Samar, said. "Trees and power lines were toppled, tin roofs were blown off and there is flooding."

Authorities were predicting 16ft storm surges as the typhoon, Hagupit, makes its way across the mostly poor central provinces. In the city of Legazpi, residents expressed fear as ocean sprays crashed above the seawall and fierce winds roared ahead of the main typhoon front.

"We're terrified the water will rise up," Karen Baraham, an ice cream vendor, said from an office building.

Early reports suggested the eastern islands had been spared the level of devastation caused by last year's super typhoon Haiyan, which killed more than 7,000 people and displaced more than four million.

Hagupit had weakened after making landfall but still had gusts of up to 100mph and a front of more than 600km.

The typhoon, which made landfall in Eastern Samar late on Saturday, was moving slowly, dumping heavy rain that could trigger landslides and floods.

Traumatised by the death and destruction from Typhoon Haiyan last year, a million people fled to about 1,000 emergency shelters and safer grounds.

The government, backed by the 120,000-strong military, had launched massive preparations to attain a zero-casualty target.

Nearly a dozen countries, led by the US and EU, have pledged to help in case of a catastrophe from Hagupit, disaster-response agency chief Alexander Pama said. The EU commissioner for humanitarian aid, Christos Stylianides, said a team of experts would be deployed to help assess the damage.

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