Philippines Starts Evacuations Before Super Typhoon Lands

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Philippine authorities started evacuating provinces in the country’s east, shutting schools and moving a meeting of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation officials as a super typhoon draws closer to landfall.

Hagupit, which means “whip” in Filipino, is about 720 kilometers (447 miles) east of Surigao City on the southern island of Mindanao, with maximum winds picking up to 205 kilometers per hour, the weather bureau said in a bulletin at 5 p.m. local time. The typhoon is tracking a path similar to Haiyan, which devastated the central Philippines last year and was the strongest storm to hit land, it said. Hagupit is a super typhoon, according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center.

The storm will probably affect about two thirds of the nation’s provinces, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas said in a televised briefing. Evacuations are under way in Eastern Samar and Leyte provinces, ABS-CBN News reported, citing local officials, with the weather bureau forecasting the typhoon to make landfall in the area on Dec. 6.

People in areas at risk of storm surges are being evacuated in Dinagat Islands province, public information officer Jane Mayola said in a mobile-phone message. At least 15 areas have closed schools, the education department said.

The Philippines, battered by an average of 20 cyclones yearly that form over the Pacific Ocean, was among countries hardest hit by extreme weather last year, according to German research group Germanwatch. Haiyan, the equivalent of a category 5 hurricane, killed more than 6,200 people in the Philippines in November last year and left more than a thousand missing.

Storm Surges

“If Hagupit does hit the Philippines it will be a much weaker storm than Haiyan was,” said Jeff Masters, founder of Weather Underground, a data provider with offices in San Francisco, California. “Heavy rains, not high winds and storm surges, will likely be the greatest threat for the Philippines from Hagupit.”

President Benigno Aquino, during a meeting at the disaster-risk agency, ordered government agencies to secure rice warehouses, power and telecommunications for critical operations, according to a televised briefing of the meeting in Manila. Nineteen provinces within the 100-kilometer radius of the storm’s track are considered highly critical areas, where damage to agriculture is expected to be heavy, travel dangerous and moderate to heavy disruption of electricity likely, state meteorologists said.

Soldiers are preparing to provide humanitarian assistance, according to Major Emmanuel Garcia, commander of the Armed Forces’ 7th civil relations group.

APEC Meeting

The venue for the APEC senior officials’ Dec. 8-9 meeting was moved to Manila from Albay, a province frequently hit by storms, the government’s Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa said in a statement yesterday.

The typhoon may pack maximum sustained winds of 287 kilometers per hour in 36 hours, enough to destroy buildings and cause catastrophic storm surges, according to the typhoon warning center. The lowest alert has been raised in nine areas, which means winds of as much as 60 kph are expected in at least 36 hours, the weather bureau said.

Government agencies, which have 4.7 billion pesos ($105 million) of quick response funds, are prepared to act, the budget department said in a statement.