The strongest storm in the world this year is approaching the Philippines, and its authorities ordered on Saturday the evacuation of thousands of residents in the southern part of the main island of Luzon.
Typhoon Goni, known locally as Rolly, is a Category 5 storm with gusts of up to 265 kilometers per hour (133 miles per hour) and sustained winds of 215 kilometers per hour (164 mph).
It will make landfall the Philippines on Sunday, becoming the strongest typhoon to hit the Southeast Asian country since Haiyan -one of the most intense cyclones in modern history that killed more than 6,300 people in November 2013.
Authorities began to carry out preventive evacuations in coastal communities, as well as in those prone to landslides in the provinces of Camarines Norte and Camarines Sur.
Gremil Naz, a local disaster official, told DZBB radio station that Albay’s provincial government would order residents in risky areas to leave their homes.
Typhoon Molave killed 22 people in the Philippines earlier this week by drowning in southern provinces of the capital Manila –a city also in the projected path of Typhoon Goni.
The COVID-19 situation represents another obstacle for officials, who have to impose social distancing in evacuation centers to prevent the spread of the virus.
To date, the Philippines has the second-highest number of coronavirus infections and deaths in Southeast Asia.
Filipino Grace America, mayor of Infanta town in Quezon province, told DZBB radio that relief items, heavy machinery, and personal protective equipment are already positioned in key areas.
“But because of the Covid-19 pandemic, our funds for calamity concerns and expenses are insufficient,” she said.
Besides, the authorities also canceled port operations and prohibited the fishermen from setting sail.
Typhoon Goni or “Rolly” is moving west from the Pacific Ocean at 20 km/h (12 mph). It is expected to bring heavy rains to the capital city and 14 other provinces on Saturday night. There are threats of flooding and land displacement.
Typhoon Atsani is also gaining strength outside the Philippines.
Every year about 20 typhoons hit the country.