Typhoon Ambo continues to batter Philippines

Floodwaters caused by typhoon Vongfong inundate a village as it passed by Sorsogon province, eastern Philippines on Friday May 15, 2020. (AP)
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Updated 15 May 2020

Typhoon Ambo continues to batter Philippines

  • Officials worry evacuation centers will become breeding grounds for coronavirus spread

MANILA: Typhoon Ambo (Vongfong) has left a trail of destruction in the central Philippines as it continues to hit other parts of the country, adding to the woes of hundreds of thousands of Filipinos who had to be evacuated amid the coronavirus lockdown.

In Eastern Samar, where it made its first landfall on Thursday, the storm caused “unimaginable” damage to infrastructure, Governor Ben Evardone said on Friday.

Among the damaged facilities were schools that have been converted into COVID-19 quarantine centers.

Pictures shared by netizens showed roofless buildings, uprooted trees and toppled electric poles. Several major roads were blocked by floodwater and debris.

In a radio interview, Evardone said that many areas in the province were left without power and communication lines were down.

“As of now, the storm has subsided but electricity and communications lines are down in some of the towns. Even the radio facility of the province was destroyed,” he said.

He added that the situation in evacuation centers was a nightmare for maintaining physical distancing to prevent the potential spread of COVID-19.

The volatile situation has been further aggravated by a dengue outbreak in the province.

“We are really faced with a big challenge,” Evardone said, adding that the province had yet to recover from the destruction left by typhoon Ursula (Phanfone) last December and its disaster mitigation funds were already depleted.

“Nevertheless I think we’ll be able to make it, especially if there will be help from the national government,” he said.

At least 24 towns in Northern Samar, 18 in Samar, and two in Biliran were also experiencing power outages as power transmission lines have been damaged, police said.

A report by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said that there were “heavy” damages to high-risk structures in other areas such as Sorsogon in Albay, Northern Masbate including the western portion of Camarines Norte and Camarines Sur, and the southern portion of Quezon province.

In Albay, where some 15,000 families were evacuated, shelters could accommodate only half of them. Other evacuees were brought to churches where they were required to keep a distance of one meter from each other to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The NDRRMC has yet to release a report on the number of affected people and casualties.

Ambo, the first typhoon for the country this year, struck at 12:15 p.m. local time on Thursday.

After making five more landfalls, it has weakened into a severe tropical storm, but continued to head for the northern part of Quezon and Laguna early on Friday afternoon.

According to the latest updates by the state weather bureau, until Friday night moderate to heavy and intense rains were expected over southern Luzon, Metro Manila and central Luzon.
Between Friday night and Saturday, moderate to heavy rains with at times intense rains are expected over northern Luzon.


New coronavirus cases in Hong Kong raise concerns of local cluster

Updated 02 June 2020

New coronavirus cases in Hong Kong raise concerns of local cluster

  • The infected woman is a night-shift worker at a Kerry Logistics warehouse
  • The government was expected to extend a ban on group gatherings larger than eight later on Tuesday
HONG KONG: A cluster of nine coronavirus cases raised concerns in Hong Kong over renewed local transmission in a city that has been one of the most successful in keeping the pandemic under control. The first two cases in the cluster — a husband and wife — were confirmed on Sunday. Since then four neighbors, two of the wife’s work colleagues, and a fire department medical officer who had sent the woman to hospital have been confirmed to have been infected. None had been abroad recently.
“We are very concerned about this cluster of nine,” Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam told her weekly news conference on Tuesday, before an executive council meeting.
The infected woman is a night-shift worker at a Kerry Logistics warehouse, where she labels food items imported from Britain, local media reported.
The government was expected to extend a ban on group gatherings larger than eight later on Tuesday. It was due to expire at the end of Thursday, and has been extended several times for two-week periods.
The limits on the size of gatherings prompted police to reject for the first time an application of the annual vigil tens of thousands of Hong Kong people traditionally hold in a downtown park to commemorate pro-democracy protesters killed in and around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square 31 years ago.
A further extension is also likely to thwart plans for legally organizing anniversary marches of the anti-government protests that started in June last year and resumed recently after Beijing announced plans to impose national security laws on Hong Kong.
Lam has repeatedly said health measures had no political motive. On Tuesday, she said they were not about “taking away people’s freedom,” but about protecting people, adding that public health was “also part of national security.”
As of Monday, Hong Kong had reported 1,088 coronavirus cases and four deaths.