Season’s 1st typhoon makes landfall in Philippines

Manila, May 14 (IANS) The first typhoon of the season made landfall on Thursday on Philippines' Samar island, as the country prepares for the start of the relaxation of COVID-19 confinement measures.

Typhoon Vongfong, locally named Ambo, intensified a few hours before making landfall in the town of San Policarpio, Eastern Samar province, Efe news quoted the national meteorology agency Pagasa as saying.

Around 400,000 people have been evacuated from their houses in low-lying and coastal areas in the provinces of Eastern Samar and Northern Samar, as the storm carries winds of 150 kph, with gusts of up to 185 kph, and heavy rains.

“We have several facilities enabled for the isolation of COVID-19 patients, but fortunately we do not have cases here, so we will use them to shelter the evacuees due to the typhoon,” said Northern Samar's chief disaster officer Josh Echano.

Local and provincial authorities in the area have warned of the need for aid and food supplies as closures since mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic have caused a shortage of resources to feed the evacuees.

The typhoon was moving at a speed of about 15 kph in a northwesterly direction towards Manila where heavy rains occurred shortly after the typhoon arrived in the country, despite having made landfall about 800 km from the capital.

The typhoon is expected to flood the entire island of Samar – the third largest in the country after Luzon and Mindanao – where Pagasa has already raised the alert level to 3 in almost all of its territory, out of a total of 4.

In Manila and provinces in central and southern Luzon – those most affected by the coronavirus pandemic – alert level 1 has been activated ahead of the expected arrival of the typhoon on Friday.

According to Pagasa's forecasts, from Manila Vongfong will head north and leave the Philippine Area of Responsibility on May 18, heading towards Japan.

An average of 20 typhoons hit the Philippines each year.

The most destructive and deadly was in November 2013 when the super typhoon Haiyan hit the islands of Samar and Leyte, killing some 7,000 people and leaving 200,000 families homeless.



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