Disaster-stricken Philippines prepares for another major storm
Millions of people in the Philippines were on high alert yesterday for one of the strongest typhoons ever to hit the disasterbattered country, with authorities warning of giant storm surges and destructive winds.
Super Typhoon Haima was forecast to hit remote communities in the far north of the country last night, bringing winds almost on a par with catastrophic Super Typhoon Haiyan that claimed more than 7 350 lives in 2013.
“It’s not just heavy rain and strong winds that we are expecting,” Allan Tabel, chief of the Interior Ministry’s disaster and information coordinating centre, said.
“It’s also floods, landslides and storm surges in coastal areas.”
With Haima having a weather band of 800km, more than 10 million people across the northern parts of the Philippines’ main island of Luzon will be affected, according to the government’s disaster risk management agency.
Haima was approaching the Philippines with sustained winds of 225km/h and gusts of 315km/h, according to the state weather bureau.
The Philippine islands are often the first major land mass to be hit by storms that generate over the Pacific Ocean.
The southeast Asian archipelago endures about 20 major storms each year, many of them deadly.
The most powerful and deadly was Haiyan, which destroyed entire towns in heavily populated areas of the central Philippines.
“We are possibly dealing with a typhoon that is even stronger than Typhoon Yolanda [as Haiyan was known in the Philippines] in 2013,” government executive secretary Salvador Medialdea said.
“We must therefore brace ourselves for the possible effects of a typhoon of this magnitude.
“We call on all government agencies to be on the highest level of preparedness and to take all necessary precautions.”
In the northern regions expected to be worst hit, tens of thousands of people sought refuge in schools and other makeshift evacuation centres as authorities raised the highest typhoon alert of “signal five”.
Flights to the north were also suspended and schools closed.
The Philippine capital of Manila is about 450km south of where Haima is forecast to make landfall.
Authorities said the city, with about 12 million people, was not expected to be badly affected but would be hit with some rain.
Haima is the second typhoon to hit the northern Philippines in a week, after Sarika claimed at least one life and left three people missing.