Hundreds of thousands flee Melor

HASTY RETREAT: Filipino soldiers assist a child to board a truck bound for evacuation centres in Legazpi City in Albay province yesterday. Typhoon Melor forced 724 000 people to flee their homes after it slammed into the Philippines. Picture: EPA
HASTY RETREAT: Filipino soldiers assist a child to board a truck bound for evacuation centres in Legazpi City in Albay province yesterday. Typhoon Melor forced 724 000 people to flee their homes after it slammed into the Philippines. Picture: EPA

Evacuated province ‘a ghost town’ after typhoon batters Philippines

MORE than 700 000 people in the central Philippines fled to safer areas for fear of giant waves, floods or landslides as Typhoon Melor slammed into the archipelago country yesterday, officials said.

Melor brushed the northern tip of Samar, a farming island of 1.5 million people, early yesterday with winds gusting up to 185km/h, the state weather bureau said.

There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage suffered.

Samar was among areas devastated in 2013 by Typhoon Haiyan, when giant waves wiped out entire communities and left 7 350 people dead or missing.

Authorities warned that Melor’s powerful winds might whip up 4m waves, blow off tin roofs and uproot trees. Heavy rain within its 300km diameter could trigger floods and landslides.

In Albay province in the southeast of Luzon island, almost 600 000 people were evacuated due to fears that heavy rain could cause mudslides on the slopes of nearby Mayon Volcano, according to the national disaster monitoring office.

Residents carrying bags of clothes and water jugs clambered onto army trucks in Albay’s Legazpi City after an evacuation alarm sounded.

Huge waves crashed into the city’s deserted boulevard as palm trees swayed.

“The whole province is now a ghost town. We shut all establishments. No school, no work,” Albay governor Joey Salceda said on ABS-CBN television.

Albay, a province of 1.2 million people, has become a model for disaster preparedness. It recorded zero casualties from Typhoon Hagupit last December due to prompt evacuations.

An additional 130 000 people were evacuated in Sorsogon province south of Albay.

The typhoon was expected to cut across the central heartlands in the early hours of today before heading out to the South China Sea in the west.

Stormy weather forced the cancellation of 40 domestic flights and halted 625 passenger and cargo ferry trips, the disaster monitoring agency said.

The government had prepared more than 200 000 food packs and other emergency items before the storm’s landfall, social welfare secretary Corazon Soliman told DZMM radio.

The Philippines is battered by an average of 20 typhoons annually. Two of these usually hit in December, state weather forecaster Robert Badrina said.

The weather bureau was studying the link between the increasing strength of year-end storms and climate change, he said.

In October Typhoon Koppu killed 54 and forced tens of thousands to flee.

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