Just over six years after Super Typhoon Haiyan slammed into the Philippines with devastating impacts, a less powerful but still deadly Typhoon Phanfone plowed across the central Philippines on Christmas Day leaving destruction in its wake.
According to the Associated Press, the storm (also called Typhoon Ursula), "left at least 20 people dead and forced thousands to flee their homes, devastating Christmas celebrations in the predominantly Catholic country."
Tracking a very similar course as Haiyan did in 2013, Typhoon Phanfone, reported AP, "stranded many people in sea and airports at the peak of holiday travel, set off landslides, flooded low-lying villages, destroyed houses, downed trees and electrical poles and knocked out power in entire provinces. One disaster response officer described the battered coastal town of Batad in Iloilo province as a 'ghost town' on Christmas Day."
My heart aches. This Christmas, #TyphoonUrsula/Phanfone swept through the Philippines. The storm struck my hometown uprooting one of the oldest trees in the town center. Thousands of people have been affected. Keeping the Philippines in my this holiday.https://t.co/6S6FeyASqt
— Adrien Salazar (@adrien4ej) December 26, 2019
Around 2,351 people have been affected by the typhoon and 1,654 people were taking refuge in evacuation centers, according to the Philippine national disaster management agency, NDRRMC. A total of 58,400 people were pre-emptively evacuated ahead of the typhoon, the NDRRMC said.
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The agency said 87 cities and municipalities experienced power outages, and by Thursday, 24 of those have had power restored.
Phanfone followed a similar path to the devastating Typhoon Haiyan in 2013, which was one of the most powerful storms on record and killed at least 6,000 people.
The full extent of the damage is yet to be determined as power and communications in several areas remain cut off.
With people from around the world sending their prayers and aid agencies mobilizing, Pope Francis issued a Christmas Day statement to the victims of the storm.
"I join in the pain that affected the dear people of the Philippines because of the Typhoon Phanfone," said Pope Francis. "I pray for the numerous victims, for the injured and for their families."