Philippines evacuates hundreds of thousands as typhoon makes landfall

May 14, 2020 - 9:14 PM
Residents wearing masks for protection against coronavirus disease (COVID-19) arrive at a school turned evacuation center as they prepare for Typhoon Vongfong in Legazpi City, Albay province, Philippines, May 14, 2020. (Reuters/Nino Luces)

MANILA — Philippine authorities started moving 200,000 people away from their homes in coastal and mountainous areas because of fears of flooding and landslides as a typhoon made landfall on Thursday, disaster officials said.

Typhoon “Ambo” (International name: Vongfong), the first to hit the country this year, slammed into the eastern Philippines packing winds of 155 kph and gusts of up to 190 kph, the state weather bureau said.

Social distancing measures to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus are likely to complicate efforts to move thousands of people into evacuation centers, such as classrooms and school gymnasiums.

Provincial disaster officials said they had asked the education department for more schools they could use as temporary shelters.

The Philippines has reported more than 11,000 cases of the new coronavirus, most in the capital Manila, and more than 700 deaths.

Authorities told people in areas in the path of the Category 2 typhoon to brace for intense rain and to be on alert for landslides, storm surges and floods.

An average of 20 typhoons a year hit the Philippines, an archipelago of more than 7,000 islands. —Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales and Karen Lema