The first typhoon of the season, Vongfong, made landfall on the island of Samar in the far eastern Philippines on Thursday as the country prepares for the gradual start of the COVID-19 quarantine de-escalation.
The storm intensified a few hours before making landfall in the town of San Policarpio, in the province of Eastern Samar, reported Pagasa, the national institute of meteorology in the Philippines.
Around 400,000 people have been evacuated from their houses in low and coastal areas in the provinces of Samar Oriental and Samar Norte, as Vongfong, locally baptized Ambo, drags winds of 150 km / h, with gusts of up to 185 km / h , and heavy rains.
“We have several facilities enabled for the isolation of COVID-19 patients, but fortunately we do not have cases here, so we will use them to shelter the evacuees due to the typhoon,” said the head of the disaster risk reduction and reduction council of the province of Samar Norte, Josh Echano.
Local and provincial authorities in the area have warned of the need to send aid and food supplies, since the closure since mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a shortage of resources to feed the evacuees.
The typhoon is moving at a speed of about 15 kilometers per hour in a northwesterly direction, towards Manila, where heavy rains occurred shortly after the cyclone arrived in the country, despite having made landfall about 800 kilometers from the capital.
The typhoon is expected to flood the entire island of Samar – the third largest in the country after Luzon and Mindanao – where Pagasa has already raised alert number 3 in almost all of its territory, out of a total of 4.
In Manila and provinces in central and southern Luzon – those most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic – alert number 1 has already been activated, while the arrival of the typhoon is expected on Friday.
According to Pagasa’s forecasts, Vongfong will head north after arriving in Manila and will depart the Philippine area of responsibility on Monday for Japan.
An average of 20 typhoons hit the Philippines each year, and the most destructive and deadly was in November 2013 when the super typhoon Haiyan hit the islands of Samar and Leyte, killing some 7,000 people and leaving 200,000 families homeless.