Haunted by Haiyan, Philippine residents flee as Typhoon Hagupit approaches
MANILA // Villagers fled coastal homes in the central Philippines on Thursday as an approaching powerful storm brought back nightmares of last year’s deadly Typhoon Haiyan.
Long lines formed at grocery stores and gas stations as residents hoarded basic goods.
Government forecasters said Typhoon Hagupit, which was packing sustained winds of 195 kilometres per hour and gusts of up to 230 kph on Thursday, may hit Eastern Samar province on Saturday and barrel inland along the same route where Haiyan levelled villages and left more than 7,300 dead and missing in November last year.
Emily Sagales said many of her still-edgy neighbours in central Tacloban city, which was ravaged by the 2013 storm, packed their clothes and fled to a sports stadium and the safer homes of relatives.
“The trauma has returned,” the Haiyan survivor said.
In the wake of last year’s typhoon, which killed her mother-in-law and destroyed her home, Ms Sagales gave birth to a baby girl in a crowded makeshift clinic filled with the injured and the dying near Tacloban airport.
“It’s worse now because I didn’t have a baby to worry about last year,” the 23-year-old said.
Haiyan demolished about 1 million houses and displaced about 4 million people in the central Philippines. Hundreds of residents still living in tents in Tacloban have been prioritised in the ongoing evacuation.
Hotels in the city were running out of rooms as wealthier families booked ahead for the weekend.
“The sun is still shining but people are obviously scared. Almost all of our rooms have been booked,” said Roan Florendo of the hilltop Leyte Park hotel, which lies near San Pedro Bay in Tacloban.
The military was put on full alert and government workers opened evacuation centres and transported food packs to far-flung villages, which could be cut off by heavy rains.
In Manila, President Benigno Aquino III led an emergency meeting of disaster-response agencies on Thursday and ordered steps to prevent panic-buying.
He checked on how many Philippine air force C-130 cargo planes were available for possible emergency flights and inquired about the readiness of hospitals. Mr Aquino also asked what police plan to do to maintain law and order and prevent the looting that erupted in Tacloban in the initial hours after Haiyan hit the city last year.
The approaching typhoon “presents a challenge but, I think, we’ve been challenged worse by Yolanda,” Mr Aquino said, referring to Haiyan’s local name.
Published: December 4, 2014 04:00 AM