On Saturday, Philippine officials ordered an evacuation of thousands of residents in the southern part of the main Luzon island. A category five storm that is the world’s strongest this year approaches the Southeast Asian nation.
With 215 kph (133 miles) sustained winds and gusts of up to 265 kph (164 mph), Typhoon Goni 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 Goni’s projected path, the 18th tropical storm in the country.
Authorities face another hurdle as social distancing needs to be imposed in evacuation centers to prevent coronavirus spread. The Philippines has the second-highest COVID-19 infections and deaths in Southeast Asia, next only to Indonesia.
Relief goods, personal protective equipment, and heavy machinery are already positioned in critical areas, Filipino 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 canceled port operations and barred fishers from setting sail.
Typhoon Goni, moving westward at 20 kph (12 mph) from the Pacific Ocean, will bring heavy rains over the capital and 14 provinces nearby on Saturday evening and threats of floods and landslides.
Another typhoon, Atsani, is gaining strength just outside the Philippines. Around 20 storms hit the Philippines every year.