A girl looks out of a window as rain clouds cover the sky, at an evacuation centre for the coastal community, to shelter from typhoon Hagupit, in Manila, 8 December 2014. Photo: Cheryl Gagalac / REUTERS

By Erik de Castro, with additional reporting by Rosemarie Francisco, Manny Mogato, Erik dela Cruz, and Neil Jerome Morales in Manila; Editing by Jeremy Laurence and Alex Richardson
8 December 2014
MANILA (Reuters) – Typhoon Hagupit weakened to a tropical storm as it churned close to the Philippine capital on Monday, after killing 27 people on the eastern island of Samar island where it flattened homes, toppled trees and cut power and communications.

Manila shut down as Hagupit, which means "lash" in Filipino, took aim at the tip of the main island Luzon, just south of the capital city of 12 million people.

"We now have a total of 27 dead, most of them in Borongan, Eastern Samar," said Richard Gordon, chairman of the Philippine Red Cross, adding most of the dead drowned in floodwaters.

He said around 2,500 houses were totally or partially destroyed in Borongan, a town of 64,000 people.

But despite the rising death toll, there was relief that Hagupit had not brought destruction on the scale of super typhoon Haiyan, which last year killed thousands of people in the same areas of the central Philippines.

Hagupit roared in from the Pacific as a Category 3 typhoon on Saturday night, churning across Samar island and on to the smaller island of Masbate. Its effects were felt across the central Philippines, including Leyte island and southern Luzon.

"Our kitchen was wrecked. Around us, our neighbors' homes were flattened like folded paper," Arnalyn Bula, a 27-year-old bank employee, said from Dolores town in Eastern Samar, where Hagupit first made landfall. [...]

Proceso Alcala, the farm minister, said initial reports put crop and farm infrastructure damage at 1 billion pesos ($22 million). Rice crops were most affected, with little damage to corn. [...]

Dolores Mayor Emiliana Villacarillo said almost 100 percent of ricelands in the town were submerged by floodwaters.

"Our farmers will have to go back to square one and plant again. We will need new seedlings," she said. [more]

Philippine capital braces for storm, as Hagupit leaves 27 dead



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