Typhoon Goni has made landfall in the Philippines with “catastrophic” gusts of up to 280km/h, making it the most powerful storm we’ve seen anywhere in the world this year.

Already, at least four people are reported to have died in the typhoon since it hit the island of Catanduanes in the country’s east, including a five-year-old boy who was washed away by floodwater after a dyke collapsed.

“Within the next 12 hours, catastrophic violent winds and intense to torrential rainfall associated with the region of the eyewall and inner rain bands of the typhoon will be experienced,” an official alert from the the Philippine weather agency said.

The violent winds and torrential rain have flooded communities and rivers, destroyed buildings, and cut of power from entire towns. Now, Typhoon Goni (known locally as Typhoon Rolly) is headed just south of the capital, Manila, where 14 million people live.

Civil Defence Chief Ricardo Jalad said 347,000 had been evacuated so far, but before the storm hit he had actually given a figure of one million people.

“There are so many people who are really in vulnerable areas,” he said on Sunday. “We’re expecting major damage.”

Makeshift tents have been set up in school gyms around the country, with an extra effort to keep people as socially distanced as possible.

The Most Powerful Storm Of 2020, Typhoon Goni, Has Started Wreaking Havoc In The Philippines
School gyms are being used to evacuate hundreds of thousands of people (Getty Images / Ezra Acayan).

While the Philippines is used to being battered by severe storms, Goni is the most the most powerful one the country’s faced since Typhoon Haiyan, which killed more than 6,000 people in 2013.

The coronavirus pandemic has also made it much harder to evacuate entire regions in one go.

Nevertheless thanks to some good planning, farmers were able to save 1.07 million tonnes of unmilled rice and 45,703 tonnes of corn before the storm started tearing up farmland and rice paddies.

While airports and ports are shut for obvious reasons, efforts are still being made to get relief goods, heavy machinery needed for cleanup, and PPE into affected areas.

Image: Getty Images / Ezra Acayan