MANILA: Nearly 100,000 people have been evacuated from their homes in the central and southern Philippines after a powerful typhoon lashed the archipelago nation on Thursday, with authorities warning of destructive winds and downpours.
The Philippines has already been hit by dozens of storms and typhoons this year, but Typhoon Rai, locally named “Odette,” is particularly strong, with the state weather agency warning of “very destructive typhoon-force winds.”
It carried maximum sustained winds of 195 km/h and gustiness of up to 240 km/h when it made its first landfall over Siargao Island in Surigao Del Norte, and was moving south toward the Visayas region, Mindanao and Palawan islands.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said thousands of rescue teams are on standby and over 98,000 people have been evacuated, especially in coastal, low-lying, and landslide-prone villages. The number is expected to increase.
“Evacuation is still continuing,” the council’s Office of Civil Defense deputy administrator, Casiano Monilla, told reporters, adding: “Prior to the landfall there were no reported casualties. We hope we can sustain that.”
The US Navy has categorized Rai as a “super typhoon,” and the Philippine Red Cross said it was the strongest storm the country is facing this year, threatening millions of people.
“Red Cross emergency teams are urgently helping as tens of thousands of families bunker down for the most powerful storm they have faced this year,” Philippine Red Cross Chairman Richard Gordon said in a statement.
“Filipinos are tough but this Super Typhoon is a bitter blow for millions of people who are still recovering from devastating storms, floods and COVID-19 in the past year.”
The presidential office has assured Filipinos of its prompt emergency response and available relief funds.
“The Department of Social Welfare and Development, including its Field Offices, has available disaster response standby funds and family food packs prepositioned in different strategic areas in the typhoon-affected regions,” said acting presidential spokesperson Karlo Nograles.
He called on residents in typhoon-affected regions to “cooperate with respective authorities should there be a need for immediate evacuation.”