Philippines va­cates thou­sands ahead of Christ­mas ty­phoon

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Philip­pine au­thor­i­ties be­gan evac­u­at­ing thou­sands of peo­ple and shut down dozens of ports yes­ter­day as a strong ty­phoon threat­ened to wal­lop the coun­try’s east coast on Christ­mas Day. Nock-Ten is ex­pected to be pack­ing winds of be­tween 203-250 kilo­me­ters per hour when it crosses over Catan­d­u­anes, a re­mote is­land of 250,000 peo­ple in the Bi­col re­gion, late Sun­day, the US Joint Ty­phoon Warn­ing Cen­ter said. It is then ex­pected to hit the coun­try’s main is­land of Lu­zon, in­clud­ing the cap­i­tal Manila, to­mor­row.

“The pre­emp­tive evac­u­a­tion is on­go­ing” in Catan­d­u­anes and two nearby prov­inces, Rachel Mi­randa, spokes­woman for the civil de­fense of­fice in the Bi­col re­gion, told AFP. She said she did not have the to­tal num­ber of peo­ple who have been trans­ferred to higher ground or to safer struc­tures. The evac­u­a­tions came as an­other civil de­fense of­fi­cial in the area said that hun­dreds of thou­sands of res­i­dents were un­der threat from the ap­proach­ing ty­phoon.

The Philip­pine weather ser­vice warned of po­ten­tially deadly two-meter waves along the coast, as well as land­slides and flash floods from heavy rains. Sea­far­ing ves­sels in the area were or­dered to stay at port, while one air­line can­celled 18 Christ­mas-Day flights to and from Bi­col air­ports. “It’s sad that I could not join my par­ents for Christ­mas,” tech­ni­cian Rea­gan Su­mukit told AFP as the coast­guard shut down the port of Tabaco.

The 27-year-old was among some 500 ferry pas­sen­gers stranded at the tiny ter­mi­nal that was crammed with bags and other lug­gage. Lo­cal broad­caster ABSCBN showed footage yes­ter­day of long lines of trucks, cars and ve­hi­cles stranded at other Bi­col ports. The poor, mainly agri­cul­tural re­gion of 5.5 mil­lion peo­ple is of­ten the first area to be hit by the 20 or so storms and ty­phoons that pound the ar­chi­pel­ago each year. Cedric Daep, civil de­fence chief for the prov­ince of Al­bay, told AFP at least 400,000 peo­ple in that area alone needed to be evac­u­ated.

“Our evac­u­a­tion cen­tres will not be able to ac­com­mo­date all of them,” he said. Oth­ers were be­ing asked to stay with rel­a­tives or friends. “We are re­quest­ing ve­hi­cle sup­port” from other govern­ment agen­cies to move peo­ple to safety, Daep added. In Manila, the civil de­fence of­fice or­dered huge road­side ad­ver­tis­ing bill­boards to be pulled down in case they were top­pled by strong winds and hurt peo­ple on the ground, spokes­woman Rom­ina Marasi­gan told a news con­fer­ence.

Nock-Ten, named af­ter a bird found in Laos, is ar­riv­ing later than the usual ty­phoon sea­son in the Philippines. The most pow­er­ful and dead­li­est ty­phoon to hit the coun­try was Haiyan, which left 7,350 peo­ple dead or miss­ing and de­stroyed en­tire towns in heav­ily pop­u­lated ar­eas of the central Philippines in Novem­ber 2013. — AFP

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