Powerful typhoon slams into northern Philippines, spoiling Christmas

Stranded passengers from Tabaco port in Albay province, eastern Philippines, are evacuated by the local government on Dec. 24, 2016 after their seafaring vessels were prohibited from sailing ahead of typhoon Nock-Ten's expected arrival. (AFP / Charism Sayat)
Updated 25 December 2016

Powerful typhoon slams into northern Philippines, spoiling Christmas

DARAGA, Philippines: A powerful typhoon hit the Philippines late Sunday, cutting off electricity to millions and disrupting Christmas celebrations for tens of thousands who fled its approach, officials said.
Typhoon Nock-Ten made landfall in the eastern island province of Catanduanes at 6:30 p.m. (1030 GMT) with gusts of 235 kilometers (146 miles) an hour, the state weather service said.
Officials said there were no immediate reports of damage or casualties from the storm, one of the strongest this year to hit the disaster-prone archipelago on the Pacific Rim.
The military and local governments earlier moved at least 102,000 people from the coasts, Catanduanes and the nearby Bicol peninsula, an impoverished region which is home to more than five million, provincial officials said.
“Most of Bicol is without electricity,” Joaquin Berces, a member of the region’s civil defense office told AFP as residents hunkered down in the dark.
“We stayed indoors for our own safety and we probably won’t know the extent of the damage until tomorrow,” he said by telephone from Legazpi city, the regional capital about 350 kilometers southeast of Manila.
Communication and power lines have been cut in Catanduanes, he added.

Gigantic waves
Experts had earlier warned of large coastal waves of up to 2.5-meters (eight-feet) high, floods and landslides.
The typhoon was forecast to sweep west toward the country’s most densely populated areas, passing just south of the capital Manila on Monday afternoon.
“It would pass over land overnight and we hope that would dissipate the typhoon’s strength somewhat” before reaching the Manila area, state weather forecaster Lorie de la Cruz told AFP.
She said maximum sustained winds during land fall were 185 kilometers (115 miles) per hour, far lower than the 250 kph winds estimated earlier by the US Joint Typhoon Warning Center.
Nock-Ten, named after a bird found in Laos, struck on one of the biggest holidays in the mainly Christian nation, and one provincial governor offered roast pig at evacuation centers to entice people to abandon celebrations at home.
“Floods terrify me. Each time I hear about a coming typhoon I want to throw up,” Criselda Buenvenuto, 68, told AFP as she joined neighbors sheltering at a school in the town of Santo Domingo in Bicol.
The hunchbacked widow lived alone in the kitchen of her house after the rest of it was destroyed during a typhoon 10 years ago that killed more than a thousand people.
In the village of Alcala on the slopes of the active Mayon volcano, about 100 babies, toddlers, parents and elderly people were the first to be trucked off to another school as rain and strong winds shook trees.
“There are large ash deposits on the slopes (of Mayon). Heavy rain can dislodge them and bury our homes in mud,” said local official Alberto Lindo.

Typhoon island
The government forced more than 12,000 residents to move away from the Catanduanes coast, provincial vice governor Shirley Abundo said on ABS-CBN television.
In Camarines Sur province near Catanduanes, governor Miguel Villafuerte said on his Facebook page that nearly 90,000 residents were moved out of their homes as part of his “zero casualty” goal.
“Please evacuate, we will offer roast pig at the evacuation centers,” he said in another post on Twitter.
Civil defense officials in Bicol said earlier nearly half a million people in the region were in harm’s way and needed to be moved out.
All ferry services and commercial flights in the area were suspended.
Some 20 typhoons or lesser storms strike the Philippines each year, routinely killing hundreds of people, and Bicol is often the first region to be hit.
It prides itself on having sharpened its disaster response to minimize casualties.
Rescue workers in Manila and surrounding provinces have been put on standby, evacuation centers opened and food and other rations stocked.
The coast guard on Sunday ordered the beaches south of Manila to be cleared of holidaymakers by Monday, while residents of the capital’s seaside slums were warned to leave their homes.
Mammoth tsunami-like waves devastated the city of Tacloban and nearby areas when super typhoon Haiyan struck the central Philippines in November 2013, leaving 7,350 people dead or missing. 


Coronavirus worst crisis since Second World War, UN boss says as deaths surge

Updated 01 April 2020

Coronavirus worst crisis since Second World War, UN boss says as deaths surge

  • Around half of the planet’s population is under some form of lockdown
  • Lockdowns remain at the forefront of official disease-stopping arsenals — a strategy increasingly borne-out by science

WASHINGTON: The global death toll from the coronavirus pandemic continued to worsen Wednesday despite unprecedented lockdowns, as the head of the United Nations sounded the alarm on what he said was humanity’s worst crisis since World War II.
The warning came as Donald Trump told Americans to brace for a “very painful” few weeks after the United States registered its deadliest 24 hours of the crisis.
Around half of the planet’s population is under some form of lockdown as governments struggle to halt the spread of a disease that has now infected more than 850,000 people.
Well over 40,000 are known to have died, half of them in Italy and Spain, but the death toll continues to rise with new records being logged daily in the US.
“This is going to be a very painful — a very, very painful — two weeks,” Trump said, describing the pandemic as “a plague.”
“I want every American to be prepared for the hard days that lie ahead.”
America’s outbreak has mushroomed rapidly. There are now around 190,000 known cases — a figure that has doubled in just five days.
On Tuesday, a record 865 people died, according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University, taking the national toll so far to more than 4,000.
Members of Trump’s coronavirus task force said the country should be ready for between 100,000 and 240,000 deaths in the coming months.
“As sobering a number as that is, we should be prepared for it,” Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert.
America’s under-pressure health system is being supplemented by field hospitals sprouting up all over New York, including a tented camp in Central Park, a hospital ship and converted convention centers.
But even with the extended capacity, doctors say they are still having to make painful choices.
“If you get a surge of patients coming in, and you only have a limited number of ventilators, you can’t necessarily ventilate patients,” Shamit Patel of the Beth Israel hospital said. “And then you have to start picking and choosing.”
The extraordinary economic and political upheaval spurred by the virus presents a real danger to the relative peace the world has seen over the last few decades, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Tuesday.
The “disease ... represents a threat to everybody in the world and... an economic impact that will bring a recession that probably has no parallel in the recent past.”
“The combination of the two facts and the risk that it contributes to enhanced instability, enhanced unrest, and enhanced conflict are things that make us believe that this is the most challenging crisis we have faced since the Second World War,” he said.
In virtual talks Tuesday, finance ministers and central bankers from the world’s 20 major economies pledged to address the debt burden of low-income countries and deliver aid to emerging markets.
Last week G20 leaders said they were injecting $5 trillion into the global economy to head off a feared deep recession.
In the European Union, however, battle lines have been drawn over the terms of a rescue plan.
Worst-hit Italy and Spain are leading a push for a shared debt instrument — dubbed “coronabonds.”
But talk of shared debt is a red line for Germany and other northern countries, threatening to divide the bloc.
Deaths shot up again across Europe. While there are hopeful signs that the spread of infections is slowing in hardest-hit Italy and Spain, which both reported more than 800 new deaths Tuesday.
France recorded a one-day record of 499 dead while Britain reported 381 coronavirus deaths, including that of a previously healthy 13-year-old.
That came after a 12-year-old Belgian girl succumbed to an illness that is serious chiefly for older, frailer people with pre-existing health conditions.
Lockdowns remain at the forefront of official disease-stopping arsenals — a strategy increasingly borne-out by science.
Researchers said China’s decision to shutter Wuhan, ground zero for the global COVID-19 pandemic, may have prevented three-quarters of a million new cases by delaying the spread of the virus.
“Our analysis suggests that without the Wuhan travel ban and the national emergency response there would have been more than 700,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases outside of Wuhan” by mid-February, said Oxford University’s Christopher Dye.