Mindanao, Philippines – Tens of thousands of people were evacuated from their homes in the Philippines as “one of the world’s most severe storms” of the year made landfall in the island nation’s east-central regions.
The Philippines meteorological office, PAGASA, said Typhoon Rai first made landfall on Siargao Island of Surigao del Norte at 05:30 GMT Thursday.
He warned of “very destructive typhoon force winds” in parts of the country and said he expected to see storm surges in coastal areas, as well as flooding and landslides in mountainous areas along the typhoon’s path.
PAGASA said the wind speed accelerated to 195 kilometers (121 miles per hour) near the center with gusts of up to 240 km / h (149 mph).
The US Navy’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) has declared Rai a super typhoon.
It is the 15th typhoon to hit the country this year. Official figures show that some 100,000 people have now fled their homes.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has called typhoon, known locally as Typhoon Odette, “one of the most severe storms in the world in 2021” and said it “threatened millions of people with destructive winds and flash floods.”
“Filipinos are tough, but this super typhoon is a blow to millions of people who are still recovering from last year’s devastating storms, floods and COVID-19,” said Richard Gordon, president of the Cross – Filipino red.
According to the national disaster mitigation agency, NDRRMC, eight regions of the country have been placed at the highest level in emergency preparedness and response protocol.
The eight regions located in the central and southern island cluster in the Visayas and Mindanao regions have a combined population of over 30 million.
Later Thursday, the NDRRMC issued a warning of possible flooding and mudslides in Mindanao provinces of Misamis Oriental, Misamis Occidental, Lanao del Norte and Zamboanga Del Norte due to ongoing torrential rains that are expected to continue for at at least three hours.
Several of these areas have been advised to proceed with a preventive evacuation.
Arvin Limare Bonbon, disaster management manager at Dipolog, told Al Jazeera that there was a “preventive and forced evacuation underway” in parts of the coastal town of about 138,000 people.
Work and online classes have been suspended in some areas, including central Cebu province, which has a population of eight million.
The Philippine Coast Guard said it had tied up all ships, stranding nearly 4,000 ferry and cargo passengers and workers at dozens of southern and central ports. Several flights, mostly domestic, have been canceled and schools and workplaces have been closed in the most vulnerable areas.
A COVID-19 vaccination campaign has also been suspended in parts of the country due to the typhoon. Evacuations could further complicate the country’s response to the coronavirus as thousands of displaced residents fill emergency shelters, where social distancing guidelines are difficult to maintain.
In the province of Eastern Samar in the Visayas, Governor Ben Evardone reportedly told radio station DZMM that nearly 30,000 residents were evacuated on Thursday morning. The provinces of Eastern Samar and Leyte were among the hardest hit by Super Typhoon Haiyan of 2013, which killed thousands.
In other parts of the eastern Visayas, more than 17,000 people were also evacuated, according to press reports.
In Mindanao’s Surigao del Norte province, the provincial disaster mitigation agency said 51,000 residents had been evacuated so far.
In Dinagat, Governor Arlene Bag-ao was quoted by press articles as saying that nearly 2,000 families have sought refuge in evacuation centers.
The government disaster response agency said more than 98,000 people were evacuated across the country as of Thursday afternoon.
As of Wednesday afternoon, rescuers from Tandag, a southern coastal town with more than 62,000 residents, evacuated 3,668 families, the local government said, adding that the evacuees were staying in 18 temporary shelters.
In Cagayan de Oro, also in Mindanao, social media posts showed heavy rains and flooding in parts of the city, which has a population of over 675,000.
According to the NDRRMC, the national government has put on hold food and non-food supplies worth an estimated $ 6.6 million.
The Philippines is regularly struck by more than a dozen deadly typhoons each year.
In October, at least 11 people were killed and seven others missing when Typhoon Kompasu hit the north and west of the country.