Philippines vacates thousands ahead of Christmas typhoon
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