Philippines braces for another cyclone as Typhoon Goni toll rises

Storm Atsani, with gusts of up to 80kmph, gaining strength over the Pacific Ocean, expected to make landfall later this week.

A man sits beside a car, washed away by floods caused by Typhoon Goni, in Barangay San Isidro, Batangas City [Eloisa Lopez/Reuters]

At least 20 people have been killed after Typhoon Goni – the world’s strongest typhoon this year – barrelled across the Philippines, toppling power lines and triggering floods and landslides that damaged tens of thousands of homes.

The country’s disaster agency on Monday said the deaths were in the hard-hit eastern provinces of Albay and Catanduanes.

Goni, which battered provinces south of the capital Manila on Sunday with gusts of up to 310 kilometres per hour (190 mph), is the 18th to hit the Philippines this year and one of the strongest typhoons since Haiyan killed more than 6,300 people in 2013.

Now another storm, Atsani, with gusts of up to 80 kmph (49 mph), is gaining strength over the Pacific Ocean and is expected to make landfall later this week.

“It’s not as powerful as [Goni] but it would cause damage in its path, on the roads and bridges,” President Rodrigo Duterte said in a televised cabinet meeting.

Officials said a forcible evacuation of more than 345,000 people ahead of the typhoon had averted more deaths.

A man looks at his house across the swirling waters of a flash flood brought by Typhoon Goni in Barangay Busay, Daraga town, Albay province [Nino N Luces/ Reuters]

Ricardo Jalad, the disaster management chief, said Goni partially damaged more than 55,000 homes and flattened 20,000 more.

Another 13,000 homes, some engulfed by an up to five metre (16.4 ft) storm surge, were damaged in the island province of Catanduanes when Goni made landfall on Sunday, provincial governor Joseph Cua told a news conference.

“While there’s no more typhoon, we have no air and sea transportation,” Cua said.

‘Relentless toll’

At least six people were killed in Catanduanes. Most of the island’s power lines were damaged in the typhoon and reports from towns were only trickling in, suggesting the death toll there could rise.

“We’re hoping aid will arrive soon. We are short on funds,” Cua told CNN Philippines.

The president of the Philippines Red Cross said he was “horrified by the devastation” caused by Goni in areas including Catanduanes.

“Up to 90 per cent of homes have been badly damaged or destroyed in some areas. This typhoon has smashed in to people’s lives and livelihoods on top of the relentless physical, emotional and economic toll of COVID-19,” he added.

In Albay province, where 14 people died, the regional disaster chief also reported “extensive damage to infrastructure and housing”.

“Many people are hungry. They had already suffered from COVID due to the loss of jobs and dislocation. Some don’t even have kitchen utensils,” said Cedric Daep.

Seven of the victims were in a town that was hit by a landslide of volcanic ash from the nearby active Mayon volcano.

The mayor of Guinobatan told local media that around 147 homes had been swamped and some were now unlivable.

Meanwhile in Batangas city, south of the capital Manila, the Philippine Coast Guard and other government agencies were scrambling to rescue hundreds of people trapped in their homes by floodwaters.

“The flood took only minutes to rise – not hours, but minutes,” Alona Espino in Batangas city told AFP.

“We never experienced flood raging so fast.”

Residents in provinces south of Manila have started clearing homes of mud and debris, while people in still flooded communities were separated in tents inside evacuation centres to avoid the spread of the coronavirus.

Before Goni hit, the Philippines had been grappling with the impact of Typhoon Molave, which killed 22 people, most of whom drowned, in provinces south of Manila.

Vietnam said Goni is forecast to hit its central coast on Wednesday night, dumping more heavy rain in an area where floods and landslides in the past month have already killed about 160 people, with dozens missing.


Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies