MANILA (Reuters) - The Philippine government on Wednesday sent food and medical supplies to central provinces on the path of a Category 3 typhoon, with many of them still reeling from devastation brought by super typhoon Haiyan late last year.
Residents of coastal villages and landslide-prone communities were told to move to government-designated evacuation areas, as Typhoon Hagupit (Filipino for lash) barrelled towards Eastern Samar province in central Philippines with winds of up to 140 kmh and gusts of up to 170 kmh.
Hagupit is currently hovering over the Palau islands and is expected to pick up strength before hitting eastern Philippines on Saturday. Tropical Storm Risk forecasts Hagupit will become a category 4 typhoon in 36 hours. "Definitely we will now strictly enforce forced evacuation," said Mr Jerry Yaokasin, vice-mayor of Tacloban City in central Philippines. "We have no more excuse, we have gone through Yolanda, and to lose that many lives, it's beyond our conscience already," he said, referring to typhoon Haiyan which left more than 7,000 dead or missing in November last year.
Tacloban City, worst-hit by the strongest storm ever to make landfall, accounted for more than half of the dead from Haiyan. Nearly all of the city was either flattened or damaged.
While Hagupit is weaker than Haiyan's 250 kmh winds, it is expected to bring 3m to 4m-high storm surges, topple houses made of light materials and uproot trees, said officials at the state weather bureau, adding there was a 75 per cent chance the typhoon will hit land. "We are on a worst(-case) scenario," Mr Landrico Dalida Jr, deputy administrator at the state weather bureau Pagasa, said at a media briefing, adding there was a 25 per cent chance Hagupit may veer north and miss Philippine coasts as it heads to Japan.
The South-east Asian country was hardest hit by extreme weather in 2013, said a report by a German government-funded think-tank Germanwatch.
Concerns over extreme weather have been exacerbated by an apparent shift in storm paths, with southern regions hit by powerful typhoons in the past three years. About 20 typhoons strike the country each year, most hitting the north along the main island of Luzon.