Thousands evacuate as Typhoon Hagupit lashes Philippines

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Story highlights

NEW: Threat of flooding rises as the typhoon moves slowly across country

Mayor of Tacloban says 48,000 people moved to shelters

About 40 million people are in the path

Storm should be weaker by the time it reaches Manila on Monday

CNN  — 

A massive typhoon crept across central Philippines on Sunday, sending thousands of people into shelters and pouring heavy rain that heightened the risk of flooding and landslides.

Typhoon Hagupit – its name means “lash” in Filipino – moved west-northwest and targeted the city of Legazpi, just north of where the storm made landfall on Saturday.

CNN’s Saima Mohsin, reporting from Legazpi on Sunday, said shelters were full as high winds and driving rain battered the city. One of the city’s major fears is a storm surge that could reach 2-4 meters (6.5 to 13 feet).

With memories of last year’s devastating super typhoon fresh in their minds, more than 600,000 people had evacuated by Saturday morning, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council. About 40 million people are in the path of the storm’s winds.

Gen. Gregorio Catapang, chief of staff of armed forces, said at a Sunday press conference that soldiers were working to clear roads and airports so that emergency services could be delivered.

Eleven nations had offered assistance, including the Australia, the United States, China, Japan and the United Kingdom.

CNN meteorologist Derek Van Dam said that the storm is actually breaking up over the land mass of the Philippines, but will continue to pour heavy rain. He said 395 mm (15.5 inches) of rain were reported in Bororgan in 24 hours.

Hagupit is moving slowly on its west-northwest track, at 15 kph (9.3 mph). At that rate, it will take about three days for the storm to travel past the capital, Manila, dumping extreme amounts of rainfall – more than a foot in some places – as it goes.

Expected to lose some punch by Manila

Hagupit should be significantly weaker by the time it reaches Manila, but winds will still be higher than 100 kph (60 mph). The biggest threat in the capital will come from the heavy rainfall.

That will lead to flash flooding and mudslides, even in places far away from the storm’s center.

Despite the threats of danger, a CNN crew in Legazpi saw many residents who were ignoring evacuation orders and vowing to stay in their makeshift beachside homes.

“I think we can handle the situation. If or when it gets worse, we’ll go to the evacuation center,” one man said.

“We’ve been here 25 years and seen many typhoons,” said a woman at the coast. “This one already feels stronger than Typhoon Haiyan, but we won’t leave yet.”

The typhoon came ashore on eastern Samar Island just before 10 p.m. (9 a.m. ET) with winds of 205 kph (127 mph) – the equivalent of a Category 3 hurricane.

Town ravaged last year escapes major damage

One city farther south breathed a sigh of relief on Sunday.

In Tacloban, the streets were empty because residents had already evacuated. Last year, super typhoon Haiyan devastated Tacloban, killing more than 6,000 people and making around 200,000 people homeless.

Mayor Alfred Romualdez told CNN the city is without power but he’s seen only minor damage with broken windows and trees down. Many roads were flooded, but not impassable.

About 48,000 people have moved to evacuation centers, he said; there have been no casualties.

CNN’s Asia-Pacific editor Andrew Stephens, reporting from Tacloban, said there was no storm surge. “The main emotion here is one of relief,” he said.

Fishermen fears typhoon will “destroy everything”

“There was a lot of preparation,” Orla Fagan, spokeswoman for the United Nations humanitarian agency OCHA, told CNN. “I think that the lessons learned were very hard ones in Tacloban … because there were so many lives lost, and I think they’ve really taken cognizance this time and really made an all-out effort everywhere to bring people to safety.”

Philippines gets more than its share of disasters

CNN’s Madison Park and CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller contributed to this report.