Relief in Philippines as typhoon crawls west; 4 dead

Evacuees are seen at the Government Elementary School turn into an evacuation centre in Manila.

MANILA - Hundreds of thousands of Filipinos began to return to their homes battered by a powerful typhoon at the weekend, but the nation collectively breathed a sigh of relief as a massive evacuation plan appeared to minimise fatalities.

The death toll from typhoon Hagupit stood at four on Monday, as over a million people escaped the wrath of the category-3 storm in evacuation centres across the centre of the country, although hundreds of homes were flattened.

A year after a category-5 super-storm travelling roughly the same path left more than 7,000 people dead or missing in the Philippines, authorities took no chances and evacuated entire towns and villages into over 1,500 evacuation centres on Friday and Saturday.

"We're happy that we've learned our lessons from our past experiences. This is a good sign," said Gwendolyn Pang, secretary general of the Philippine Red Cross.

Delia Monleon, mayor of Jipapad, a town of 7,000 people in Eastern Samar province, said flood waters were still preventing people from getting to their homes.

"Our problem is power, food is a problem because boats cannot leave," said Monleon.

"It was flooded yesterday so we can't leave to look for food," she said.

Hagupit was crawling west at 10 kph from central Romblon islands towards Oriental Mindoro province on Monday, with winds of up to 120 kph near the centre and gusts of up to 150 kph, the PAGASA weather bureau said.