In the shadow of the slow recovery, emotional wounds have yet to heal a year after devastating storm hit Philippines.
Philippine officials on Saturday ordered the evacuation of thousands of residents in the southern part of the main Luzon island as a category 5 storm that is the world’s strongest this year approaches the Southeast Asian nation.
Typhoon Goni, with 215 kilometre-per-hour (133 miles) sustained winds and gusts of up to 265 kph (164 mph), will make landfall on Sunday as the strongest typhoon to hit the Philippines since Haiyan that killed more than 6,300 people in November 2013.
Pre-emptive evacuations have started in coastal and landslide-prone communities in the provinces of Camarines Norte and Camarines Sur, while Albay provincial government would order residents in risky areas to leave their homes, Gremil Naz, a local disaster official, told DZBB radio station.
“The strength of this typhoon is no joke.”
Typhoon Molave last week killed 22 people, mostly through drowning in provinces south of the capital Manila, which is also in the projected path of Goni, the 18th tropical storm in the country.
Authorities are facing another hurdle as social distancing needs to be imposed in evacuation centres to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
In Southeast Asia, the Philippines has the second-highest number of COVID-19 infections at around 380,000 cases and over 7,000 deaths, next only to Indonesia.
Dwindling calamity funds
Relief goods, heavy machinery and personal protective equipment are already positioned in key areas, Filipina Grace America, mayor of Infanta town in Quezon province, told DZBB radio.
“But because of the COVID-19 pandemic, our funds for calamity concerns and expenses are insufficient.”
Local officials cancelled port operations and barred fishermen from setting sail.
Typhoon Goni, moving westward at 20 kph (12 mph) from the Pacific Ocean, will bring intense rains over the capital and 14 provinces nearby on Saturday evening, and threats of floods and landslides, according to the country’s weather agency.
“This is the most powerful storm to approach the Philippines in seven years.” Alberto Muyot, Chief Executive Officer of Save the Children Philippines said in a press release. “It has developed into a super typhoon.”
“Our community will need to rally to offer support to the most vulnerable people.”
Another typhoon, Atsani, is gaining strength just outside the Philippines. Around 20 typhoons hit the Philippines every year.