The Philippines yesterday evacuated close to a million people, as it braced itself for the strongest typhoon to hit anywhere in the world this year.
Typhoon Goni, known locally as Rolly, is bearing down on the eastern part of the main island of Luzon, with winds of up to 295kmh, approximating the strength of Typhoon Haiyan that killed more than 6,300 people in November 2013.
"The strength of this typhoon is no joke," Mr Gremil Naz, a local disaster official in Albay province, told radio station DZBB.
Goni is forecast to sweep through the same regions still reeling from the fury of an earlier storm, Typhoon Molave, which last week left 22 people dead, inundated provinces in regions south of the capital Manila, and caused at least 1.81 billion pesos (S$51 million) in damage to farmlands.
Although Goni is expected to weaken slightly when it makes landfall in the eastern provinces of Catanduanes and Camarines early today and cut a path very close to Manila, it will still pack maximum winds of about 250kmh.
Typhoon alerts have been raised across Luzon and the eastern part of central Philippines. The weather bureau has warned of heavy rain, storm surges of up to 3m, floods and landslides.
Mr Ricardo Jalad, executive director of the national disaster agency, told a news conference that about 794,000 people living in coastal and landslide-prone communities in Albay had already been evacuated.
Mr Don Culvera, a disaster response official, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that close to 160,000 people in Camarines had left their homes for emergency shelters.
In Manila and nearby Bulacan province, roughly 1,000 Covid-19 patients housed in large isolation tents could be transferred to hotels and hospitals, Mr Jalad said.
The Philippines has the second highest Covid-19 infections and deaths in South-east Asia, next only to Indonesia, with 380,729 cases and 7,221 deaths.
Many more people across southern Luzon have been advised to get ready to evacuate.
State vulcanologists, meanwhile, have warned of possible mudflows from three active volcanoes.
The Philippine Red Cross said it has pre-positioned rescue vehicles, first aid volunteers, emergency response teams and relief items, and is also assisting communities ahead of the typhoon's expected landfall.
The Coast Guard has shut down more than a dozen ports, mostly in the Bicol region, leaving some 1,500 stranded.
Mr Harry Roque, President Rodrigo Duterte's spokesman, said the nation's main disaster response agency is now on red alert, and the Social Welfare Ministry has already stockpiled relief goods and earmarked relief funds worth some 870 million pesos.
Max wind speed of Typhoon Goni, known locally as Rolly, which is bearing down Luzon.
Goni is the third typhoon to hit the Philippines in three weeks. Another storm, Atsani, is set to bear down on the archipelago later this week.
The Philippines, the first major landmass facing the Pacific cyclone belt, gets hit by an average of 20 storms and typhoons each year.
The typhoon season usually starts in June and peters out by November. But in recent years, the strongest typhoons have been slamming the country as the year draws to a close in November and December.
Many more people across southern Luzon have also been advised to get ready to evacuate.