Philippine officials ordered the evacuation Saturday of thousands of people in the southern part of the main island of Luzon as a category 5 storm closed in.
Typhoon Goni is the world’s strongest tropical cyclone so far this year. As of 8 a.m. EDT Saturday (8 p.m. Saturday Philippine time), the super typhoon had sustained winds of 180 mph, as strong as a Category 5 hurricane. Gusts were higher than 200 mph. Goni will make landfall sometime Sunday as the strongest typhoon to hit the Philippines since Haiyan, which killed more than 6,300 people in 2013.
Pre-emptive evacuations have started in coastal and landslide-prone communities in the provinces of Camarines Norte and Camarines Sur. The Albay provincial government also said it would order residents in risky areas to leave their homes.
“The strength of this typhoon is no joke,” Gremil Naz, a local disaster official, told DZBB radio.
Local officials canceled port operations and barred fishers from setting sail.
Last week, Typhoon Molave killed 22 people in the country, in provinces south of the capital Manila. This area is in Goni’s projected path.
Authorities are facing another challenge as social distancing is imposed in evacuation centers to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The Philippines has the second highest Covid-19 infections and deaths in southeast Asia, trailing Indonesia.
Filipina Grace R. America, mayor of Infanta in the Quezon province, told DZBB radio that relief goods, heavy machinery and personal protective equipment are already positioned in key areas.
“But because of the Covid-19 pandemic, our funds for calamity concerns and expenses are insufficient,” the mayor said.
Another typhoon, Atsani, is gaining strength just outside the Philippines, but it’s too early to tell if this storm will make a direct hit there.