Mil­lions in Philip­pines on alert for su­per typhoon

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

MANILA: Mil­lions of peo­ple in the Philip­pines were on high alert yes­ter­day for one of the strong­est ty­phoons to ever hit the dis­as­ter-bat­tered coun­try, with au­thor­i­ties warn­ing of gi­ant storm surges and destructive winds. Su­per Typhoon Haima was forecast to hit re­mote com­mu­ni­ties in the far north of the coun­try about 11:00 pm (1500 GMT) yes­ter­day, bring­ing winds al­most on a par with cat­a­strophic Su­per Typhoon Haiyan that claimed more than 7,350 lives in 2013.

“It’s not just heavy rain and strong winds that we are ex­pect­ing. It’s also floods, land­slides and storm surges in coastal ar­eas. Those in these ar­eas, you are in dan­ger. Find safer ground,” Al­lan Ta­bel, chief of the in­te­rior min­istry’s dis­as­ter and in­for­ma­tion co­or­di­nat­ing cen­tre, told a na­tion­ally tele­vised brief­ing. With Haima hav­ing a weather band of 800 kilo­me­ters more than 10 mil­lion peo­ple across the north­ern parts of the Philip­pines’ main is­land of Lu­zon will be af­fected, ac­cord­ing to the govern­ment’s dis­as­ter risk man­age­ment agency. Haima was ap­proach­ing the Philip­pines with sus­tained winds of 225 kilo­me­ters an hour and gusts of 315 kilo­me­ters an hour, ac­cord­ing to the state weather bureau. Au­thor­i­ties warned coastal com­mu­ni­ties to ex­pect storm surges of five me­ters or higher.

“It’s al­ready started. The wind is strong, the waves are big,” said Julie Her­mano, man­ager of a small re­sort in Santa Ana, a coastal town of about 30,000 peo­ple that is in the typhoon’s di­rect path. “Some res­i­dents have been panic-buy­ing food in markets be­cause we were told it’s go­ing to be a su­per typhoon. We’ve al­ready tied down our wa­ter tank and pre­pared our (power) gen­er­a­tor set.” The Philippine is­lands are of­ten the first ma­jor land­mass to be hit by storms that gen­er­ate over the Pa­cific Ocean. The South­east Asian ar­chi­pel­ago en­dures about 20 ma­jor storms each year, many of them deadly.

The most pow­er­ful and deadly was Haiyan, which de­stroyed en­tire towns in heav­ily pop­u­lated ar­eas of the cen­tral Philip­pines. “We are pos­si­bly deal­ing with a typhoon that is even stronger than Typhoon Yolanda (as Haiyan was known in the Philip­pines) in 2013. We must there­fore brace our­selves for the pos­si­ble ef­fects of a typhoon of this mag­ni­tude,” govern­ment ex­ec­u­tive sec­re­tary Sal­vador Me­di­aldea said in a state­ment. “We call on all govern­ment agen­cies to be on high­est level of pre­pared­ness and to take all nec­es­sary pre­cau­tions.”

In the north­ern re­gions ex­pected to be worst hit, tens of thou­sands of peo­ple sought refuge in schools and other makeshift evac­u­a­tion cen­ters as au­thor­i­ties raised the high­est typhoon alert of “sig­nal five”. Flights to the north were also sus­pended and schools were closed. The Philippine cap­i­tal of Manila is about 450 kilo­me­ters south of where Haima is forecast to make land­fall. Au­thor­i­ties said the city, with about 12 mil­lion peo­ple, was not ex­pected to be badly hit al­though it would be hit with some rain. Haima was forecast to exit the Philip­pines Fri­day, then track to­wards south­ern China. Haima is the sec­ond typhoon to hit the north­ern Philip­pines in a week, af­ter Sarika claimed at least one life and left three peo­ple miss­ing. —AFP

BAGUIO CITY: A res­i­dent hold­ing his pet cats sits in a tem­po­rary shel­ter, af­ter lo­cal au­thor­i­ties or­dered a pre-emp­tive evac­u­a­tion of af­fected res­i­dents hours be­fore Su­per Typhoon Haima is forecast to hit. —AFP

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