The Philippines was bracing for the arrival of Typhoon Mangkhut on Thursday, evacuating more than 800,000 residents from coastal areas and other communities as President Rodrigo Duterte told government officials to prepare for the worst.
Measuring 900 kilometres wide and packing maximum sustained winds of 205 kilometres per hour, the typhoon was expected to make landfall on Saturday in the province of Cagayan, north of Manila, the weather bureau said.
The weather bureau announced storm warnings in 38 provinces in the northern and eastern Philippines as well as in the capital region of metropolitan Manila ahead of Mangkhut’s landfall.
Duterte ordered several cabinet members to travel to different areas expected to be battered by Mangkhut to be oversee government relief efforts. He noted that, despite all preparations, things could still go wrong if the typhoon shifts.
“In a crisis, you have to reckon with the Murphy’s Law,” he told a command conference with government officials. “We have estimates and we have the projections, the reckonings and all, but it ain’t there until it is there.”
“Anything can go wrong outside of the projection or sudden shift of that idiot typhoon rolling towards North Luzon (region),” he added.
Houses are at risk of being toppled due to strong winds, and heavy downpours could bring storm surges and flooding, said Ricardo Jalad, executive director of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.
More than 4.3 million people were in the direct path of the typhoon, but only 824,000 were ordered to pre-emptively evacuate in four regions in the northern Philippines, the council said. The Philippine Red Cross has estimated that 10 million people were in the path of the storm.
“Hopefully the public will heed the call because they will be in danger if they do not move out,” said Edgar Posadas, the council’s operations chief and spokesman.
Posadas said the council received reports that many residents threatened by Mangkhut were preparing for the typhoon by securing their houses, patching up and fortifying their roofs and boarding up windows and doors. Fishermen also moved their boats away from the shore.
Volunteer emergency groups have placed their teams on alert to help those affected by Mangkhut, the strongest typhoon so far this year.
“We’re worried for the 10 million people in the Philippines living in the path of this destructive storm, including those who have been displaced several times due to the monsoon rains last July and August,” said Senator Richard Gordon, chairman of the Philippine Red Cross.
“We are preparing our emergency assets and relief items,” he added. “Our staff and volunteers are on high alert for possible deployment.”
The Philippines is hit by an average of 20 cyclones every year, causing floods, landslides and other accidents. One of strongest in recent memory, Typhoon Haiyan, hit the country in November 2013, killing more than 6,300 people and displacing more than 4 million.