Super Typhoon Hagupit, briefly downgraded before regaining strength, is set to smash into the Philippine coast on Saturday. The massive storm is already forcing tens of thousands of people to flee its predicted path, which might include a direct hit on the capital, Manila.
Hagupit, which revved up to "super typhoon" status earlier this week, is expected to hit the Southeast Asian country late Saturday, making landfall as a slightly downgraded Category 4 storm, with sustained winds of 150 mph. It's forecast to make landfall only about 100 miles north of the spot where the devastating Typhoon Haiyan came ashore 13 months ago.
Hagupit currently tops out the Saffir-Simpson Scale as a Category 5 tropical cyclone. At sea, Hagupit is generating waves in excess of 45 feet high. However, by the time Hagupit makes landfall, the U.S. Navy Joint Typhoon Warning Center, or JTWC, expects to downgrade it to Category 4 — still a powerful and destructive storm.
As Hagupit approaches, memories of Haiyan — which killed more than 7,300 and prompted an international rescue and relief response — are still fresh in the Philippines.
"I'm scared," Jojo Moro, who lost his wife, daughter and mother in Haiyan last year tells The Associated Press. "I'm praying to God not to let another disaster strike us again. We haven't recovered from the first."
The JTWC, based in Hawaii, says the path of Hagupit will pass directly over Manila, but the Philippine weather agency, known by its acronym PAGASA, forecasts the storm to track slightly south of the capital.
"Ports were shut across the archipelago, leaving more than 2,000 travellers stranded in the capital Manila, the central Bicol region and Mindanao island in the south, after the coastguard suspended sea travel ahead of the typhoon.
"Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific cancelled some of their flights to central and southern Philippines.
"The eastern islands of Samur and Leyte, which are still recovering from last year's super typhoon Haiyan, could be in the firing line again."
"PAGASA has issued public storm warning signals for 34 geographic areas, spanning from southeastern portions of Luzon (the main northern island) through the Visayas (central Philippines) and northeastern parts of Mindanao (the main southern island).
"PAGASA has placed a large part of this region in Public Storm Warning Signal No. 2, meaning 61 to 100 kph (38 to 62 mph) are possible 'in at least 24 hours.' Metro Cebu, the second-largest metropolitan area in the country after Metro Manila, is included in Public Storm Warning Signal No. 2."