The world’s strongest storm of 2020 has made landfall in the Philippines, bringing “catastrophic” violent winds, intense rains and fears of storm surges as it moves towards the capital Manila.
Typhoon Goni had sustained winds of up to 225 kilometres per hour and gusts of up to 310km/h on Sunday morning.
The storm, called Typhoon Rolly in the Philippines, was equivalent to a category five cyclone when it first made landfall in Catanduanes and Albay in the Bicol region.
About a million people were evacuated into emergency shelters as the storm bore down on the island nation.
The local weather bureau said “catastrophic violent winds and intense to torrential rainfall” were expected to prevail over Bicol provinces as well as portions of Quezon, Laguna and Batangas, south of the capital Manila.
“This a particularly dangerous situation for these areas,” it said in a bulletin on Sunday morning.
The storm was blowing west toward densely populated regions, including Manila, and rain-soaked provinces still recovering from a typhoon that hit a week ago and left at least 22 people dead.
“There are so many people who are really in vulnerable areas,” said Ricardo Jalad, who heads the Philippine Government’s disaster management agency.
“We’re expecting major damage.”
#Typhoon #Goni #RollyPH continues to weaken. It is still delivering devastating impacts but will likely move out of the #Philippines within the next day or so. Then #Vietnam has to watch this as it Goni could be a strong #TropicalStorm as it makes landfall and deliver heavy rain. pic.twitter.com/w4TsUiJseC
— Force Thirteen (@ForceThirteen) November 1, 2020
Between 19 million and 31 million people could be affected, including those in danger zones, the disaster management agency said.
Goni is among the strongest typhoons to hit the Philippines since Haiyan, which killed more than 6300 people in 2013.
Manila’s main airport was ordered to shut down for 24 hours from Sunday to Monday and airlines cancelled dozens of international and domestic flights.
The military and national police, along with the coast guard and firefighters, were put on full alert.
Forecasters said the typhoon’s eye may hit or graze metropolitan Manila, the densely populated capital region of more than 13 million people, late on Sunday to early Monday and asked the public to brace for the worst.
Coronavirus patients moved as storm bears down
Storm surge alerts have been issued, while officials have also reminded those in evacuation centres to observe social distancing as the spread of coronavirus was also a concern.
About 1000 COVID-19 patients were moved to hospitals and hotels from tent quarantine and treatment centres in the capital and the northern province of Bulacan, Mr Jalad said.
More emergency shelters would be opened than usual to avoid congestion that can rapidly spark infections.
The war-like typhoon preparations will further strain government resources, which have been drained with months of coronavirus outbreaks that prompted the government to set up isolation and treatment centres when hospitals were overwhelmed and provide aid to more than 20 million poor Filipinos.
The Philippines has reported more than 380,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases, the second highest in South-East Asia, with 7221 deaths.
Displaced villagers may have to stay longer in evacuation centres even after Goni exits Tuesday due to another storm brewing in the Pacific that may affect the Philippines in a few days, Mr Jalad said.