Over 20 Dead In the Philippines from Typhoon Hagupit

Children play on top of a fallen coconut tree blocking a highway in San Julian town, Eastern Samar province central Philippines on Dec. 8.(Photo: VINCENT GO, AFP/Getty Images)

Typhoon Hagupit weakened into a tropical storm Monday after leaving 22 people dead and destroying more than 1,500 homes.

The storm, known locally as Ruby, is expected to bring heavy rains as it passes close to the capital Manila, which has a population of more than 12 million, on Monday night.

More than a million people fled to emergency shelters and to safer ground before Hagupit, or “smash” in Filipino, made landfall in Eastern Samar late Saturday. On Monday, officials said about 260,000 families were in evacuation centers.

As of Monday night, the death toll had risen to 22 people. Nineteen died in Samar, the Philippine Red Cross said. The other three deaths were in Iloilo, in the Western Visayas region.

The storm comes 13 months after Super Typhoon Haiyan ravaged the island nation, leaving more than 7,300 people dead or missing.

Philippine Red Cross chairman Richard Gordon said 16 of those who died in Samar drowned in raging flood waters. He speculated that the victims had not taken refuge in the evacuation centers when the storm hit.

He said he was not surprised at the level of damage in Samar.

“If you look at the map it’s the farthest-most island in the archipelago in the Pacific Ocean and its where the storm first landed — like Tacloban was in Haiyan,” Gordon said.

“The winds were really strong when they hit — the only thing missing was the deadly storm surge.”

Masbate, where Hagupit made its second landfall, fared much better.

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SOURCE: USA Today
Sunshine Lichauco de Leon and Jane Onyanga-Omara