Goni landed in a country already reeling from two typhoons in the previous two weeks, a coronavirus outbreak, a recession and record unemployment this year.
The storm largely spared Manila, the capital and most densely populated city, showering it with rain as it churned toward the West Philippine Sea.
The seven deaths included a child who was swept away by floodwaters. A full accounting of storm casualties in this island nation often takes days to assess.
Ahead of landfall, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration predicted “catastrophic violent winds and intense to torrential rainfall” and a storm surge over 10 feet — making it “a particularly dangerous situation.”
Authorities said Sunday that more than 346,000 people had been evacuated. The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said the number could rise to 1 million. At 8 a.m., 10 electricity cooperatives had lost power.
In the eastern province of Camarines Sur, a light tower snapped like a matchstick in a video posted on Facebook by a local member of congress. Another video showed a hanging bridge whipped by winds like a jump rope.
Keith Serrano, a medical student in Manila whose parents are in Camarines Sur, said he last made contact with them at 6:30 a.m. He reached his brother, a police officer who was assigned to conduct rescue operations in vulnerable areas, at 10 a.m.
“He told me that they’re currently stranded at the house of their rescue since the winds are already too strong to permit travel,” Serrano told The Washington Post. Then his brother stopped replying, “which made me anxious, given the situation.”
Flights and trains in the capital region were suspended. The hashtag #NasaanAngPangulo — “where is the president?” — trended online as the government began its briefing without President Rodrigo Duterte. It was later revealed he had opted to ride out the storm in his hometown, Davao City, well out of the typhoon’s path.
Hitting Catanduanes Island weakened the storm. By midday local time, peak winds were estimated at around 150 mph, equivalent to a Category 4 hurricane, as it was passing Camarines Sur.
The typhoon has been described here as a “double whammy” on top of the coronavirus. The Philippines has reported more than 380,000 coronavirus cases, about 7,200 deaths and widespread job losses.
The Health Department said it would ensure that generators and lifesaving equipment were provided to hospitals in anticipation of power outages. The department had said safety officers were needed to check on sanitation and monitor covid-19 symptoms in typically crowded evacuation centers.
In Baler, Aurora, a tourist town known for its surfing, beachside businesses kept their surfboards in stockrooms ahead of the storm.
A mere tropical storm on Wednesday, Goni grew into the most powerful cyclone of the year on Friday. As it approached landfall on Sunday, winds peaked at 195 mph, making it the most intense storm on the planet since Typhoon Meranti in 2016, which also had 195 mph winds.
The Philippines has long experience with cyclones. Of the 20 estimated to enter the region every year, about eight or nine make landfall here.
Goni arrived days after Typhoon Molave killed at least 22 people, mostly just south of Manila, according to Reuters.
Goni followed a similar path. Before it exited the Philippines, Serrano heard back from his brother, who was back in the command center.
“I was relieved and teary-eyed,” Serrano said. He had not heard from his parents. It took two days after Typhoon Molave for power and signal to be restored in their area. With a stronger storm, Serrano said, it might take a month or more.
Samenow reported from Washington.