(UPDATE) Monster Typhoon Odette (Rai) crossed the Visayas islands overnight until Friday, smashing roofs and windows, flooding riverside communities and shutting the region's largest airport in Cebu City, official reports showed.
Odette made landfall at least eight times from Thursday afternoon until early Friday, starting in the surf island of Siargao in the southeast to Southern Leyte, Bohol and Cebu, the most populous island in the Visayas. It could make landfall in Roxas, Palawan later Friday before leaving the Philippine area of responsibility on Saturday, said forecaster Benison Estareja.
At 2 p.m., the eye of Odette was located 130 km southwest of Cuyo, Palawan, packing maximum sustained winds of 155 kph with 215 kph gusts. It is expected to cross Palawan Island within the day as it heads out to the West Philippine Sea, PAGASA forecaster Raymond Ordinario said, advising those on the storm's path to prepare.
Flights at Mactan Cebu Airport are suspended until further notice due to damage from the storm, management said.
Monster typhoon before Christmas
Odette wrought damage in the Visayas eight days before Christmas in the predominantly Catholic Philippines and as millions remain under some form of pandemic restrictions due to the Omicron variant.
"This monster storm is frightening and threatens to hit coastal communities like a freight train," said Alberto Bocanegra, head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in the Philippines.
"We are very concerned that climate change is making typhoons more ferocious and unpredictable."
PAGASA had warned "very destructive" winds could cause "heavy to very heavy damage to structures and vegetation", along with widespread flooding and rain-induced landslides.
"I'm really afraid," said Nida Delito, 56, a restaurant owner on the central island province of Bohol, where the strong wind tore roofs off houses and uprooted trees.
"Many typhoons have passed here before and it was fine -- this one is different," she told AFP.
More than 98,000 people sought emergency shelter as the storm charged across the Pacific Ocean and slammed into the country, the national disaster agency said.
Among the evacuees were domestic tourists visiting the country's famed beaches and dive spots ahead of Christmas.
Verified video shot by tourists in Siargao showed trees swaying violently as people waited for the full impact of the typhoon.
Families slept on the floor of a sports complex turned into a temporary evacuation center in the town of Dapa.
In Cagayan de Oro City, coast guard officers used an inflatable boat, life rings and a stretcher to rescue residents trapped in their flooded homes near a swollen creek.
Scores of flights have been cancelled and dozens of ports temporarily closed as the weather bureau warned several metre-high storm surges could cause "life-threatening flooding" in low-lying coastal areas.
So far, there have been no reported deaths or injuries.
Odette is the second super typhoon to threaten the country since September when Kiko (Chanthu) grazed the northeastern tip of the main island of Luzon.
Scientists have long warned that typhoons are becoming more powerful, and strengthening more rapidly, as the world becomes warmer because of human-driven climate change.
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A super typhoon is also known as a category five hurricane in the United States. The Earth tends to experience around five storms of that power a year.
The Philippines -- ranked as one of the world's most vulnerable countries to the impacts of climate change -- is hit by an average of 20 storms and typhoons every year, which typically wipe out harvests, homes and infrastructure in already impoverished areas.
The deadliest cyclone on record in the Philippines was Super Typhoon Haiyan, which left more than 7,300 people dead or missing in 2013.