Manila: A powerful typhoon threatened to bring heavy rains and winds to the densely populated Filipino capital as it dragged its way through the archipelago on Monday, spoiling the Christmas holidays.
Typhoon Nock-Ten, which struck on Sunday on the eastern island of Catanduanes, is expected to head westward to the city’s center, carrying winds of 230 kilometers per hour, the government’s weather station said.
More than 218,000 people have already fled their homes while 48 domestic and international flights have been canceled, the Emergency Preparedness Bureau said, as the unusually late typhoon began Christmas celebrations in the largely Christian nation.
So far, there have been no reports of victims after the government took steps to prepare the communities even before the storm.
Nock-Ten, which moves north-west at 20 kilometers an hour, is expected to affect Manila and its environs later in the day before leaving the main island of Luzon on Monday afternoon.
The bustling metropolis of about 13 million was surprisingly calm on Boxing Day with the usual holiday revelers staying inside as Nock-Ten approached.
The civil defense office said the capital could suffer “from intense to intense rains, lightning and strong winds”, with rescue boats ready to be deployed in case of overflowing streams.
“Our local disaster councils are on red alert. We have pre-positioned relief supplies and rescue and snow removal equipment (road) at Metro Manila, “said Mina Marasigan, spokesperson for the country’s Disaster Oversight Board.
The coast guard on Sunday ordered the beaches south of Manila to be vacated Monday, while residents of the capital’s slums were warned to leave their homes.
The storm cut electricity to millions and forced government agencies to order evacuations of entire communities in the eastern region of Bicol, which suffered the strongest storm on Christmas day.
“They have voluntarily cut off electricity (in Bicol) because of the strong winds so that nobody is accidentally electrocuted if the power lines are shot down,” Marasigan told AFP.
– Wet Christmas –
“Officials in the Bicol region, especially those involved in disaster relief and operations, work 24 hours a day on Christmas Day because typhoon Nina (the local name for Nock -Ten) To the region of Bicol, “said the spokesman of the president Rodrigo Duterte, Martin Andanar, in a statement.
Marasigan said hundreds of people in Bicol celebrated Christmas Day in the evacuation centers where many had to settle for emergency food packages.
Some local officials had offered roast pigs – the traditional Filipino holiday feast – to incite voters to go to the evacuation centers, Marasigan said.
Some 20 typhoons or fewer storms strike the Philippines every year, regularly killing hundreds of people, and Bicol is often the first region to be affected.
It prides itself on strengthening its disaster response to minimize losses.
Gigantic tsunami waves have devastated the city of Tacloban and surrounding areas where the Haiyan super typhoon struck central Philippines in November 2013, leaving 7,350 people dead or missing.