Thou­sands flee pow­er­ful ty­phoon

High waves and floods ex­pected as ap­proach of Nock-Ten trig­gers mass evac­u­a­tions

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD - By AGENCE FRANCEPRESSE in Daraga, Philip­pines

Ba­bies, tod­dlers and el­derly peo­ple were loaded onto mil­i­tary trucks in the Philip­pines on Sun­day as thou­sands fled from the path of a pow­er­ful ty­phoon bar­rel­ing to­ward the ar­chi­pel­ago.

Of­fi­cials warned that coastal waves up to 2.5 me­ters high, land­slides and flash floods posed the big­gest threats as Nock-Ten closed in on the Bi­col penin­sula and nearby is­lands.

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The ty­phoon threat, on one of the big­gest hol­i­days in the mainly Chris­tian na­tion, trig­gered pre­emp­tive evac­u­a­tions that of­fi­cials said could in­volve hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple.

“We went around with mega­phones and gave in­struc­tions to our peo­ple to eat break­fast, pack and board the mil­i­tary trucks,” said Al­berto Lindo, an of­fi­cial of Al­cala, a farm­ing vil­lage of 3,300 peo­ple near the ac­tive Mayon vol­cano.

About 100 ba­bies, tod­dlers, par­ents and el­derly peo­ple were the first to be trucked off to a school about 7 kilo­me­ters away as strong winds be­gan to shake trees at mid­day, scat­ter­ing leaves on the pave­ment.

“There are large ash de­posits on the slopes (of Mayon). Heavy rain can dis­lodge them and bury our homes in mud,” Lindo added.

Philip­pine and in­ter­na­tional weather ser­vices said Nock­Ten, named af­ter a bird found in Laos, was set to hit Bi­col on the south of the main is­land of Lu­zon on Sun­day evening.

The US Joint Ty­phoon Warn­ing Cen­ter has fore­cast sus­tained winds of 231 km/h and gusts of 278 km/h when Nock-Ten makes land­fall on the now-iso­lated is­land of Catan­d­u­anes, home to 250,000 peo­ple.

The ty­phoon will even­tu­ally af­fect an area of nearly 42 mil­lion peo­ple, in­clud­ing the cap­i­tal Manila which was fore­cast to be hit on Mon­day.

Civil de­fense of­fi­cials in Bi­col said ear­lier nearly half a mil­lion peo­ple in the re­gion were in harm’s way and needed to be evac­u­ated.

The gov­ern­ment called for pre­emp­tive evac­u­a­tions in the area on Satur­day, with nearly 4,000 res­i­dents mov­ing into emer­gency cen­ters and more than 8,000 oth­ers seek­ing shel­ter else­where, an of­fi­cial tally said.

Evac­u­a­tions were con­tin­u­ing on Christ­mas Day as the

sus­tained winds are fore­cast by the US Joint Ty­phoon Warn­ing Cen­ter

mil­i­tary and lo­cal gov­ern­ments sent trucks to evac­u­ate coastal com­mu­ni­ties and other ar­eas hit by land­slides or flash floods in pre­vi­ous storms.

Hol­i­day dis­rup­tion

About 20 ty­phoons or lesser storms strike the Philip­pines each year, rou­tinely killing hun­dreds of peo­ple, and Bi­col is of­ten the first re­gion to be hit.

It prides it­self on hav­ing honed its dis­as­ter re­sponse to min­i­mize ca­su­al­ties.

“We have re­called all of our first re­spon­ders from vaca- tion. They will be on 24-hour standby and on call for res­cues or sup­port,” said Rachel Mi­randa, spokes­woman for the re­gion’s civil de­fense of­fice.

Nock-Ten, which will ar­rive out­side the nor­mal ty­phoon sea­son, dis­rupted cel­e­bra­tions of one of the most im­por­tant hol­i­days in the mainly Catholic coun­try’s re­li­gious cal­en­dar, with all ferry ser­vices and com­mer­cial flights in Bi­col sus­pended.

Some of the thou­sands of com­muters stranded at dozens of ports that were closed for the ty­phoon spent the night in­side evac­u­a­tion cen­ters on Satur­day.

Af­ter Bi­col, Nock-Ten is fore­cast to strike the is­land of Lu­zon in­clud­ing Manila.

Res­cue work­ers in the cap­i­tal have been put on standby, evac­u­a­tion cen­ters opened and food and other ra­tions stocked.

Tsunami-like sea waves dev­as­tated the city of Ta­cloban and nearby ar­eas when su­per ty­phoon Haiyan struck the cen­tral Philip­pines in Novem­ber 2013, leav­ing 7,350 peo­ple dead or miss­ing.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Res­i­dents sit in a truck af­ter the lo­cal gov­ern­ment im­ple­mented pre­emp­tive evac­u­a­tions at Barangay Matnog, Daraga, Al­bay prov­ince on Sun­day.

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