Powerful storm forces thousands from homes in Philippines

Powerful storm forces thousands from homes in Philippines”

Forecasters with the Joint Typhoon Warning Center in Hawaii say Vongfong weakened into a severe tropical storm after hitting land and was blowing northwest toward the populous main northern island of Luzon.

"The challenge really lies in the physical distancing", said disaster official Junie Castillo, who added they were housing people in classrooms emptied by the pandemic.

Vongfong packed gusts up to 190 kilometres an hour and drenching rains when it roared into the Philippines.

Residents of Isla Puting Bato - a slum area of metro Manila, Philippines - were evacuated to a local school on May 15 as Typhoon Vongfong brought risky conditions to Manila Bay, CNN Philippines reported.

Evacuees are compelled to wear masks and practice social distancing to prevent virus infections, said Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire. "It is hard - he adds - to enforce them, because [the displaced persons] are under stress". "But we are doing our best".

Authorities have said that they will run shelters at half of capacity, provide masks to people who don't have them and try to keep families grouped together.

Ben Evardone, governor of the central province Eastern Samar, said local quarantine sites, schools and at least one church were levelled by the fierce wind.

"Psychologically, the people are already struggling with COVID and now we have this typhoon".

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Concerns of how the typhoon will affect the ongoing quarantine arose as many evacuation centers across the country are now being used as coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) treatment and isolation facilities.

The storm is forecast to blow northwestward and barrel across densely populated eastern provinces and cities, including the capital, Manila, before exiting to the north Sunday. With a view to prevention and containment, in the past few days about 22 thousand people have been evacuated from the slopes of the Mayon volcano.

He said that he and his group of military, police and local authorities failed to travel to two towns hit by the typhoon, Jipapad and Maslog, due to fallen trees on the road.

Overcrowding in emergency shelters is a common scene in the archipelago, which is usually hit by about 20 typhoons and storms a year, and regularly experiences volcanic eruptions and earthquakes.

The storms put millions of people in disaster-prone areas in a state of constant poverty and rebuilding.

More than 11,600 coronavirus infections, including 772 deaths, have been reported in the country.

Numerous areas in Vongfong's path have already gone through much of their emergency disaster money while responding to the pandemic, and have asked the national government for help.

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