Thousands of people sought shelter in evacuation centers as typhoon Vongfong (local name: Ambo) barreled through poor communities in several Philippine provinces since Thursday, May 14.
As of noon time Friday, May 15, over 13,000 people were evacuated and two persons were reported hurt in three provinces of Samar.
At least 232 people and 110 vehicles were reported stranded in the port of Allen in Northern Samar.
A total of 546 evacuation centers were set up across the Eastern Visayas region, with 136 in Northern Samar, 47 in Samar, 23 in Eastern Samar, 282 in Leyte, and 58 in Biliran province.
Structures that are made of light materials were reported to have been destroyed and several fishing boats were damaged. At least 350 houses were reported damaged in Northern Samar.
In the Bicol region, 305,945 people sought refuge in 2,332 evacuation shelters Thursday night, the regional police reported.
Call for gov’t preparedness
As typhoon Vongfong sent thousands of people to shelters, Greenpeace Philippines called on the government to ensure that climate action and vulnerable sectors are at the core of its stimulus plans.
Typhoon Ambo is the first tropical storm to hit the country this year following an intense dry season that saw record high temperatures.
The typhoon arrives as the Philippine Congress deliberates several bills to respond to the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.
“The ‘new normal’ is supposed to make our communities more liveable after the pandemic, but even when the COVID-19 crisis ends, Filipinos’ livelihoods, health, access to basic needs, and safety will remain threatened by more intense and frequent typhoons, droughts, and rising sea levels,” said Greenpeace campaigner Virginia Benosa-Llorin.
“The government must use this opportunity to transition to a ‘better normal’ that will integrate the solutions to both crises into a coherent response,” she said.
The environmental activist group noted that most vulnerable communities, such as farmers and fisherfolk, deal with disruption of livelihood opportunities year-round due to typhoons and droughts.
“COVID-19 is a threat multiplier for them,” said Llorin.
“This is why the government must put them at the center of recovery plans and ensure that all projects and initiatives being planned right now reshape the economy and society to lead us to a better normal,” she added.
Sixth of numerous landfalls
Severe tropical storm Vongfong made the sixth of numerous expected landfalls over the eastern Philippines on Friday.
The tropical system strengthened throughout the week as it tracked over the warm waters of the Philippine Sea and became the first named tropical system in the Northern Pacific Ocean this year.
The Philippine News Agency reported that at least two people have been reported missing.
According to AccuWeather, regardless of the strength of the storm, heavy tropical downpours will continue throughout Saturday night, increasing the risk of flooding and mudslides.
The steadiest downpours are expected to remain north and east of Manila, but should the typhoon wobble moving over Luzon, some heavier downpours may reach the suburbs.
It is also expected bring some rain and gusty thunderstorms to parts of southern Taiwan later in the week.
Ronald Reyes contributed to this report from Tacloban.