Thousands of people from the vulnerable communities in the southern part of main Luzon island have been ordered to evacuate as this year’s biggest typhoon so-far threatens arrival in less than 24-hours.
The category-5 typhoon called Goni — locally known as Typhoon Rolly — will bring 215 kph (133 miles) sustained winds and gusts of up to 265 kph (164 mph), Sunday, Reuters reports.
Typhoon Goni will be this year’s biggest storm so-far, and one of the biggest to hit the Philippines after the 2013 Haiyan that took over 6k lives in November.
“The strength of this typhoon is no joke,” said Gremil Naz, who is a local disaster official, to DZBB radio station. He said pre-emptive evacuations in the vulnerable communities of Camarines Norte and Camarines Sur have begun, while in Albay province the government will selectively evacuate the most vulnerable people.
But evacuating thousands and sheltering them is a challenge when a pandemic is raging at full strength. Thousands of people staying together in makeshift shelters could make a haven for the COVID-19 to spread.
The Philippines is already battered with the virus, with infection tolls one of the highest in South Asia, after Indonesia. Some of the areas in the nation are particularly in danger of landslides and floods in towns like in the Camarines Sur area.
Relief goods, heavy machinery, and other needful items have been deployed in the areas threatened by the typhoon Rolly, the Reuters report said.
Members of the Philippine Army’s 91st Infantry “Sinagtala” Battalion has assured the public it is ready for help once the disaster strike and passes away, The Philippine News Agency reports.
“We activated our command center in order to keep a close eye on all of our disaster response groups situated in the ground for the timely disaster response to the possible calamity-affected areas,” Lt. Col. Reandrew Rubio, commander of 91st IB, said on Saturday.
The archipelagic country in Southeast Asia remains prone to storms, where over 20 typhoons hit the nation every year, on average.