Super Typhoon Goni makes landfall in the Philippines

Residents fleeing Super Typhoon Goni arrive at an evacuation center in Legazpi south of Manila -- nearly a million people have left their homes ahead of the storm's arrival

Super Hurricane Gone hit the Philippines on Sunday as authorities warned of “catastrophic” conditions in the region that is expected to be severely affected, with nearly a million people evacuated.

The state weather service said the strongest hurricane of the year so far made landfall on the island of Catanduanes at 4:50 am (2050 GMT on Saturday) with a maximum sustained wind speed of 225 kilometers (140 miles) per hour.

She added that during the next 12 hours, the Bicol region, which covers the southern tip of Luzon and the main island of Catanduanes, will witness “catastrophic violent winds and torrential rains.”

“This is a particularly dangerous situation for these areas.”

Typhoon Goni – which escalated into a “super” typhoon as it approached the Philippines – comes a week after Hurricane Mulaf hit the same area of ​​the archipelago vulnerable to natural disasters.

That storm killed 22 people and inundated lowland villages and farmland, before crossing the South China Sea into Vietnam.

“It looks like we’re going to have really strong winds, which increases the chances of large-scale flooding and landslides,” Mark Timbal, spokesman for the National Council for Disaster Risk Reduction and Management, told local ABS-CBN on Saturday.

“Heavy storms are impending on our eastern coast. We are monitoring the Mayon and Taal volcanoes for potential mud flows.”

Civil Defense Chief Ricardo Glad said that “nearly a million” had left their homes in the Bicol region.

On Saturday, the authorities spent the mobilization of rescue vehicles, emergency response teams and relief materials before the storm arrived.

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It warned that there is a “high risk” of life-threatening storms more than three meters (10 feet) along parts of the coast, which could inundate low-lying areas.

A storm of up to three meters is also expected in coastal areas of Manila.

– Covid complicates evacuations –

Schools that have been empty since the start of the coronavirus pandemic are being used as emergency shelters as well as government-run evacuation centers and gyms.

“Evacuating people is more difficult at the moment due to Covid-19,” Alexis Naz, a spokesman for the regional civil defense in Bicol, told AFP.

Mary Ann Ecage, 23, and her family fled their home in the coastal city of Legazpi to a boarding elementary school where they were sheltering in a classroom with several other families.

“We fear the wrath of the hurricane,” said Eshag, who was with her two children, parents and siblings. They brought with them a portable stove, canned meat, instant noodles, coffee, bread, blankets and pillows.

“Every time we are hit by a hurricane, our house is damaged because it is made of wood and a roof of galvanized iron,” she said.

“We always succeeded. We find a way to move past it.”

Hundreds of people have been stranded after the Coast Guard ordered ferries and fishing boats to enter the port in anticipation of rough seas causing waves of 16 meters high.

The government meteorological agency said Goni is expected to weaken as it crosses south of Luzon and enters the South China Sea early Monday.

The Philippines is affected by an average of 20 storms and typhoons every year, which usually wipe out crops, homes and infrastructure, leaving millions of people in permanent poverty.

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The fiercest of them was Typhoon Haiyan, which unleashed giant waves in the central city of Tacloban and left more than 7,300 people dead or missing in 2013.

cgm-amj / sst

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