MANILA — Philippine officials ordered the evacuation of thousands of residents in the southern part of the main Luzon island on Saturday as a category 5 storm, that is the world’s strongest this year, approached the Southeast Asian nation.
Typhoon Goni, with 133 miles sustained winds and gusts of up to 164 mph, will make landfall on Sunday as the strongest typhoon to hit the Philippines since Haiyan, which killed more than 6,300 people in 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 also said it would order residents in risky areas to leave their homes.
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“The strength of this typhoon is no joke,” Gremil Naz, a local disaster official, told DZBB radio station.
Last week, Typhoon Molave killed 22 people in the country, mostly through drowning, in provinces south of the capital Manila, which is also in the projected path of Goni.
Authorities are facing another hurdle as social distancing needs to be imposed in evacuation centers to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The Philippines has the second highest Covid-19 infections and deaths in southeast Asia, next only to Indonesia.
Relief goods, heavy machinery and personal protective equipment are already positioned in key 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 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.
Another typhoon, Atsani, is gaining strength just outside the Philippines. Around 20 typhoons hit the Philippines every year.