US, WASHINGTON (ORDO NEWS) — Tens of thousands of people fled to emergency shelters in the Philippines on Friday due to Typhoon Vongfong, which further complicates the fight against the coronavirus.
The typhoon destroyed homes, schools and quarantine sites when it struck Samar Island (center) on Thursday, but then turned into a severe tropical storm as it headed north to Manila.
It was accompanied by gusts of up to 190 km / h and torrential rains.
Vongfong struck when tens of millions of Filipinos are believed to be homebound because of the Covid-19. But more than 140,000 people in the Bicol region (center) had to seek shelter elsewhere than at home because of the risk posed by the storm, announced the authorities in charge of disaster management.
Residents of Bicol, less affected than those of Samar, began to return home on Friday, authorities said.
“You must wear masks and observe the rules of distancing at all times,” said Carlito Abriz, of the Philippine police, to AFP. “It is difficult to enforce because people are stressed.”
Authorities said the shelters would only operate at 50% of their capacity, that they would provide protective masks for those without them, and that they would try not to separate the families.
However, a number of places that are normally scheduled to serve as reception centers in the event of a typhoon have already been converted into quarantine centers.
Sites used locally for quarantine, schools and at least one church have been razed to the ground by heavy gusts, worried Ben Evardone, the governor of the central province of Eastern Samar. “So what is going to happen to us now, what are we going to use as Covid facilities (for the sick) here?” He asked. “This is a big problem for us.”
Fortunately, the center of the archipelago where the storm hit is not the area most affected by the Covid-19, which infected more than 12,091 people and left 806 dead in the Philippines.
But tens of millions of people live on the path of Vongfong, which should reach Manila, the densely populated capital and center of the pandemic, on Friday.
The local authorities warned the population but did not order preventive evacuations from this agglomeration.
No deaths have been reported, but rescue workers have not yet completed the assessment of the areas severely affected by the storm.
The Philippines is hit each year by an average of 20 typhoons, which kill and cause considerable damage, helping to keep millions of people in poverty.
The deadliest ever recorded in this archipelago was the Super Typhoon Haiyan, which killed more than 7,300 people in 2013.
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