Typhoon Vongfong Takes Aim at Philippine Heartland

Typhoon Vongfong Takes Aim at Philippine Heartland
Typhoon Vongfong Takes Aim at Philippine Heartland

On Friday, torrential rains and an outbreak of coronovirus that spread panic on the main island of Luzon in the Philippines caused tens of thousands of people to flee to the migration centers, triggered by torrential rain and fear.

A death was reported in eastern Samar province when thunderstorms, strong winds and rain, the first to arrive in the country this season, destroyed hundreds of buildings, as well as crops and fishing boats.

Luzon, home to nearly 60 million people, has long been under blockade to prevent the spread of coronovirus. But evacuation centers are now filled, with officials fearing they will become breeding grounds for further spread of the virus. Officials said more than 50,000 people had taken refuge in the centers.

The typhoon was strong as a Category 3 storm, when it crashed on the eastern island of Samar on Thursday afternoon. As of Friday morning, it was wreaking havoc in south Luzon on the island of Masbate and parts of the province of Quesz.

The Office of Civil Defense in Manila, located in Luzon, has warned residents living in stormy areas up to six feet on the eastern shores of the Philippine Islands. The Bichol region was expected to receive moderate to heavy rains during the day in the east as well as in the provinces of Metro Manila and Rizal, Quizon, Aurora, Laguna, Bulacan, Nuera Vizcaya and Quinoino.

After Friday afternoon, thunderstorms were accompanied by weak winds with maximum winds of around 70 mph. Heavy rain was expected on the east coast of Luzon.

Photos on Twitter showed tin roofs and uprooted trees. The storm also cut off power and communication lines in the affected areas.

A spokesman for the Manila Office of Civil Defense, Mark Timble, said local authorities in areas close to the storm were urged to ensure that people seeking refuge in evacuation centers follow social distance protocols.

"This is a unique situation because this is the first time we will face a natural threat such as a hurricane, given the state of an epidemic," he said.

Mayor Shirwin Tae of Dinglan City in Aurora Province in eastern Luzon said on local radio that at least 3,000 families living in disaster-affected areas were evacuated. He described the situation as a "nightmare scenario".

He said that the general evacuation centers were converted into quarantine facilities to handle the Kovid-19 cases, so local agencies were using the schools as temporary shelters.

According to the regional police, more than 2000 families fled to evacuation centers in the central northern province of Samar.

In Taft Township in eastern Samar Province, head of risk management and disaster reduction, Ronda Kosipag Barris said there were no local reports of casualties, but agriculture and fishing were devastated.

We are asking for help, ”she said. "Our farmers have been greatly affected because the planting of vegetables and other agricultural products, the main source of livelihood, has literally been uprooted and destroyed due to the strong winds that thunder." He said fishing boats have been pulled over.

Fernando Hiccup, head of Pamalkaya, a group representing fishermen, said the storm displaced many fishermen and farmers off the coasts of Samar, southern Luzon and the Bicol region.

He called on authorities to provide personal protective equipment to the evacuated families, as they are homes where they can become sources of infection.

"Local and national governments must be prepared to help affected families to ensure that natural disasters do not worsen the socio-economic effects of the epidemic," he said.

The Philippines receives at least 20 typhoons every year, some of which are fatal. In 2013, Super Typhoon Haiyan crashed in central Philippines, causing havoc across the country and killing 6,000 people.

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