Thousands of people in the Philippines have been told to go to evacuation centres in preparation for Typhoon Hagupit, which is set to follow the same path of last year’s Typhoon Haiyan, which left 7,300 people dead or missing.
There has been panic buying in the central Philippines as the approaching storm, which is packing sustained winds of 122mph and gusts of up to 143mph, brings back memories to the survivors of last year’s Typhoon, known locally as Yolanda.
Hagupit is expected to hit land on Saturday and barrel inland along the same route where Haiyan levelled villages and killed thousands in November last year.
Haiyan demolished about a million houses and displaced around four million people in the central Philippines, which has left hundreds of residents living in tents to this day.
The government has put the military on full alert, while evacuation centres have been opened and food packs are being sent to far-flung villages that could end up being cut off by heavy rains. Those living in tents in Tacloban have been prioritised in the ongoing evacuation.
In Manila, President Benigo Aquino III led an emergency meeting of disaster response agencies and ordered steps to prevent panic-buying and hoarding of goods.
During the nationally televised meeting, Mr Aquino was told that the typhoon is strengthening. Forecasters had initially thought there was a chance Hagupit would move towards Japan instead of the similar path of last year’s devastating typhoon, the President was told on Thursday it was almost certain the typhoon would hit the eastern coast of the Philippines.
He checked the readiness of Philippine air force aircraft for possible emergency flights, inquired about the readiness of hospitals and what police plan to do to maintain law and order and prevent the looting that erupted in Tacloban after Haiyan.
The approaching typhoon “presents a challenge but, I think, we've been challenged worse by Yolanda”, Mr Aquino told officials, referring to Haiyan's local name.
“I'd like everybody to become a busybody,” he said.
Additional reporting by AP
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