Philippine authorities are sending body bags, medicines and food packs to remote villages as the country prepared for Typhoon Hagupit’s onslaught, just over a year after Typhoon Haiyan devastated communities.
Typhoon Hagupit – translated roughly as ‘typhoon smash’ – strengthened overnight as sustained winds intensified to 143 miles per hour with gusts of 155 mph.
The typhoon is currently 280 miles from the Philippine’s eastern coast and is moving across the Pacific Ocean. It is expected to make landfall on the eastern Samar province late Saturday or early Sunday, according to local weather agency PAGASA.
Desperate not to repeat Typhoon Haiyan, which saw four million displaced and over 7,300 killed in November last year, authorities appeared better prepared to respond to the incoming storm with thousands already evacuated from central regions in danger from Hagiput and emergency supplies delivered to remote areas.
Nonetheless concerns increased after the US military’s Joint Typhoon Warning Centre in Hawaii cautioned that the typhoon may veer north, threatening the 12 million residents of Manila rather than evacuated central areas.
"We have alerted the people of Manila and we're ready," Mayor Joseph Estrada said, while acknowledging "these typhoons change direction all the time."
Reuters reported that roughly 2,000 travellers were trapped in the city as ports closed across the archipelago, with sea travel suspended. Despite this, tens of thousands of people have already fled coastal villages and landslide-prone areas in the central regions of the country.
Two airlines, Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific, have cancelled some flights to central and southern Philippines.
Haiyan was the strongest super typhoon ever recorded on land with wind speeds estimated at 195 mph, it devastated central Philippines, destroying millions of homes and leaving tens of thousands homeless.
Although Hagiput was downgraded last night from a super typhoon, the storm still promises to be the worst of the year for the Philippines.
Dr Steven Godby, an expert in natural hazards at Nottingham Trent University, told The Independent: “Isolated island groups like the Philippines are particularly vulnerable to tropical cyclones and the threats come from the high winds, storm surge and heavy rains these storms bring."
He continued: "Strong winds can cause structural damage, heavy rainfall creates freshwater flooding and landslides and storm surges bring coastal flooding and potentially significant loss of life as we saw with Typhoon Haiyan last year.”
Hundreds still living in tents in Tacloban City from the last typhoon when the storm swathed through central Philippines have been prioritised for emergency evacuation.
News of the typhoon’s approach triggered panicked buying in the city, home to 200,000, as residents formed queues to stock up on food and petrol.
Hotels in Tacloban City ran out of rooms as wealthier families booked ahead for the weekend, and roughly 19,000 people from coastal villages sought safety in 26 evacuation centres.
President Benigno Aquino III led an emergency meeting yesterday, installing measures to prevent panic-buying and hoarding, and has placed the military on full alert.
Additional reporting from Associated Press and Reuters
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