Thousands flee fury of supertyphoon ‘Yolanda’

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Fearing the fury of the strongest typhoon expected to hit the country on Friday morning, provincial authorities in the Visayas, Mindanao and Bicol region on Thursday evacuated thousands of people away from danger zones, especially those living in low-lying areas and coastal barangays (villages).


Weathermen expected Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan) to make landfall on the Philippines’ eastern seaboard at 11 a.m., packing sustained winds of 215 kilometers per hour and gusts of 260 kph. It was advancing with a giant, 600-kilometer front, they said.

“This is a very dangerous typhoon, local officials know where the vulnerable areas are and have given instructions on evacuations,” forecaster Glaiza Escullar of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration told Agence France-Presse (AFP).

“There are not too many mountains on its path to deflect the force of impact, making it more dangerous.”

Yolanda was expected to hit areas still recovering from a deadly 2011 storm and a 7.2-magnitude quake last month. They include Bohol, the epicenter of the quake that killed more than 200 people, where a local official said at least 5,000 people were still living in tents while waiting for new homes.

Eduardo del Rosario, who heads the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, said governors and mayors were supervising the evacuation of thousands of residents away from landslide- and flood-prone communities in several provinces where the typhoon is expected to pass.

President Aquino has ordered officials to aim for zero casualties, a goal often broken in an archipelago lashed by about 20 storms each year, most of them deadly and destructive. Yolanda is the 24th such storm to hit the Philippines this year.

Disaster response units from different government agencies were activated across Bicol for the evacuation of nearly half a million persons in coastal villages and landslide-prone areas and nearly 1.2 million people in flood-prone areas, particularly in Albay province.


Mayon Volcano

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology recommended the preemptive evacuation of communities in zones at “high-risk” to lahar hazards in Mayon Volcano in Albay for the duration of the supertyphoon.

Albay Gov. Joey Salceda said the provincial government had started evacuating people along these areas threatened by mudflow and lahar. He estimated that 22,622 families, or 103,193 people, in the towns of Malilipot, Bacacay, Sto. Domingo, Daraga, Camalig, Guinobatan and the cities of Ligao and Legazpi would be affected in case of mudflow.

Classes in all levels and work in all public offices in the six Bicol provinces were suspended, according to Rafael Bernardo Alejandro, regional head of the Office of Civil Defense.

Evacuations were underway in the provinces of Bohol, Cebu, Northern Samar, Leyte, Southern Leyte, Misamis Oriental, Surigao del Norte, Albay and Romblon, according to Inquirer reports. In other provinces, officials have issued warnings to residents and identified evacuation centers.


‘Worst fear’

“My worst fear is that the eye of this typhoon will hit us. I hope we will be spared,” Bohol Gov. Edgardo Chatto told The Associated Press by telephone.

“The provincial governor has ordered local disaster officials to ensure that preemptive evacuations are done, both for those living in tents as well as those in flood-prone areas,” Alfonso Damalerio, the provincial administrator, told AFP.

In Bien Unido town in Bohol, Mayor Niño Rey Boniel said the transfer of those living in the coastal areas in eight of the 15 barangays (villages) began on Wednesday night. The people are now temporarily housed in public schools.

In Ubay town, 26 families from the coastal villages of Tapun and Poblacion were sheltered at Ramon Magsaysay Gymnasium and Ubay Central School. Mayor Galicano Atup said he would order a forced evacuation of those who refused to leave their homes.

In Cebu, around 200 families abandoned their houses along the coastal areas of South and East Poblacion in Naga City and sought refuge at Enan Chiong Activity Center and a badminton covered court.

In Mandaue City, information officer Roger Paller said 40 families living along the shoreline in Barangay Looc were housed at Mandaue City Central School.


Samar, Leyte

In northern Samar, residents in coastal barangays in Lavezares town were told to prepare for evacuation. In San Roque town, Mayor Don Abalon has identified evacuation centers.

Some 40 families in Barangay Bangon, Catbalogan City, are staying at Canlapwas Church for fear that the Bangon River might overflow.

In Tacloban City, 177 families from 12 coastal barangays were brought to San Jose Elementary School, Eastern Visayas State University and Tacloban Convention Center. Mayor Alfred Romualdez designated all 54 public schools in the city as evacuation centers. 

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