Philippines urges hundreds of thousands to flee to safety before Christmas Day typhoon hits

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 December, 2016, 2:41pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 24 December, 2016, 2:41pm

Philippine authorities urged hundreds of thousands of people to evacuate their homes on Saturday as a strong typhoon threatened to wallop the country’s east coast on Christmas Day.

Nock-Ten is expected to be packing winds of 222km/h when it makes landfall on Catanduanes, a remote island of 250,000 people, on Sunday, the US Joint Typhoon Warning Centre said.

It is then expected to hit the country’s main island of Luzon, including the capital Manila, on Monday.

“We issued an advisory to local government units this morning to conduct pre-emptive evacuations,” said Rachel Miranda, spokeswoman for the civil defence office in the Bicol region that includes Catanduanes.

Bicol, an agricultural region of 5.5 million people, is often the first area to be hit by the 20 or so storms and typhoons that pound the archipelago each year.

The most powerful and deadliest was Haiyan, which left 7,350 people dead or missing and destroyed entire towns in heavily populated areas of the central Philippines in November 2013.

The Philippine weather service warned of potentially deadly two-metre waves along the east coast, as well as landslides and flash floods from heavy rains.

Local broadcaster ABS-CBN showed footage on Saturday of long lines of trucks, cars and vehicles stranded at Bicol ports after the coastguard shut down ferry crossings to nearby islands as a precaution.

The action prevented thousands of people from returning to their home towns for the Christmas weekend, it said.

Cedric Daep, civil defence chief for the Bicol province of Albay, said at least 400,000 people in that region alone needed to be moved to safety.

“Our evacuation centres will not be able to accommodate all of them,” he said. Others were being asked to stay with relatives or friends.

“We are requesting vehicle support” from other government agencies to move people to safety, Daep added.