Typhoon Hagupit is responsible for two deaths as it pummels Philippines, threatens severe flooding, landslides

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LEGAZPI, Philippines (CNN) –Typhoon Hagupit is responsible for two deaths in the Philippines, a government spokesman said Sunday.

As Typhoon Hagupit thrashes the Philippines with torrential rain, it’s also threatening the country with a barrage of new dangers: huge storm surge, intense flooding and landslides from a volcano.

A day after it made landfall near Legazpi, the massive cyclone crept across the country Sunday at a sluggish pace — about 15 kilometers per hour (9.3 miles per hour).

That means Hagupit — known locally as Typhoon Ruby — has more time to dump relentless rainfall over the same areas, making severe flooding a possibility.

What’s worse: The Mayon Volcano sitting in the storm’s path. Known for its almost perfectly symmetrical cone shape, officials are now keeping an eye on the volcano because heavy rainfall could mix with the volcanic ash and spur major landslides.

It’s not only the force of a landslide that could wreak havoc by destroying homes; there are concerns the debris could go into streams, rivers and reservoirs around the volcano, blocking them up and causing even more flooding.

Millions affected

About 40 million people are in the path of the storm’s fierce winds, which reached 160 kph (100 mph) Sunday.

And with memories of last year’s devastating super typhoon fresh in their minds, more than 600,000 people in the Philippines had evacuated by Saturday, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

Lucrecia Simbajon of Magallanes is one of those who evacuated to a local church.

“I don’t know how long I’m going to be here, as the roof was blown off my house last night,” she said Sunday morning.

Her home — a typical wooden and metal shack — was already wiped out last year. After Haiyan, she spent more than 20 days at the church, lying between pews with her children.

Despite the threats of danger, some residents in Legazpi ignored evacuation orders and vowed to stay in their makeshift beachside homes.

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

A woman who lives at the coast was also defiant. “We’ve been here 25 years and seen many typhoons,” she said. “This one already feels stronger than Typhoon Haiyan (last year), but we won’t leave yet.”

Sobering forecast

One of the major fears now is a storm surge that could create a wall of water 2 to 4 meters (6.5 to 13 feet) high

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

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

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

Weakening before Manila

Hagupit should be significantly weaker by the time it reaches the capital city of 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.

Tacloban dodges bullet

One city farther south breathed a sigh of relief 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 leaving 200,000 people homeless.

Many people in Tacloban are still living in tents or other rudimentary structures more than a year after Haiyan.

At least 100,000 people evacuated Tacloban before Typhoon Hagupit struck, the U.N. humanitarian agency OCHA Philippines said. That’s half the population of the city.

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

And there’s one bit of good news so far for the country: As of midday Sunday, no casualties had been reported.

“There was a lot of preparation,” OCHA spokeswoman Orla Fagan said.

“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.”

Saima Mohsin reported from Legazpi, Philippines; Holly Yan reported and wrote from Atlanta. CNN’s Ralph Ellis, Melissa Gray, Paul Armstrong and Madison Park contributed to this report.

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