Members of the Philippine Coast Guard carry a child as they are evacuated to safer ground in Camarines Sur province on Saturday. AP
Manolo B. Jara, Correspondent
The government on Saturday ordered the pre-emptive or forced evacuation of almost a million people to keep them out of harm's way as powerful Typhoon Goni roared towards the Bicol Region on the main island of Luzon, Philippines, with centre winds of 215 kilometres per hour and gustiness of up to 265 kph.
Coast Guard, families are evacuated to safer ground in Camarines Sur province. AP
It is among the strongest typhoons to hit the Philippines since Haiyan, which killed more than 6,300 people in 2013.
"We are having a hard time with COVID-19, and then here comes another disaster," Senator Christopher Go, the top aide of President Rodrigo Duterte, told a virtual news conference.
Local executives should ensure that the virus does not spread in evacuation centres, he said.
The next two days are crucial, as the Filipino weather service has warned of a "moderate to high risk" of storm surges up to three metres high along the east coast.
Typhoon Goni is expected to graze the southeastern tip of the main island of Luzon early on Sunday before making landfall in the afternoon with wind speeds of up to 205 kilometres per hour, the state weather forecaster said.
Local officials cancelled port operations and barred fishers from setting sail. Airlines cancelled dozens of flights.
Residents wade in a flooded bridge ahead of Typhoon Goni's landfall in the Philippines on Saturday. AFP
Officials said most of the evacuees lived in danger zones threatened by storm surges as well as floods, mudslides and landslides which state weathermen warned would result from the violent winds and heavy rains to be brought by Goni (local name Rolly).
In their latest report, weathermen said Goni maintained its strength as it barreled closer towards the Bicol Region while remaining on track of becoming a supertyphoon, considered as the strongest to hit the world this year.
Officials have started pre-emptive evacuations, with Albay province bringing 794,000 residents to safety, Ricardo Jalad, executive director of the national disaster agency, told a news conference.
In the capital Manila and nearby Bulacan province, roughly 1,000 COVID-19 patients housed in large isolation tents could be transferred to hotels and hospitals, Jalad said.
Relief goods, heavy machinery and personal protective equipment are already positioned in key areas, Filipino Grace America, mayor of Infanta town in Quezon province, told DZBB radio. "But because of the COVID-19 pandemic, our funds for calamity concerns and expenses are insufficient."
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