Philippines oves thousands before storm that may hit Manila

The Philippines evacuated thousands of people to safer ground and stockpiled food, with flights canceled as the country prepares for Super Typhoon Hagupit, a category-5 storm expected to make landfall tomorrow.

Hagupit, which means “whip” in Filipino, was 435 kilometers (270 miles) east of Eastern Samar province in central Philippines, maintaining strength as it moves toward land, with maximum winds of 215 kilometers per hour and gusts reaching 250 kilometers per hour, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration, or Pagasa, said in an 11 a.m. report. It may may pass through Metro Manila on Dec. 9, based on a forecast by the U.S. Navy’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center.

The storm is expected to bring rain of as much as 20 millimeters (0.8 inches) per hour within its 700-kilometer diameter, the weather bureau said. It will probably make landfall over the Samar area tomorrow evening and will bring strong winds, storm surges of 4 to 5 meters and intense rain, it said. Fishermen must not venture out over the coastlines of the main islands of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao where sea conditions will be rough, Pagasa said.

About 10,000 people have been evacuated in Dinagat Islands and Leyte provinces, according to officials. Cebu Air Inc. (CEB) and affiliate Tigerair Philippines canceled several flights to the islands of Visayas and Mindanao, Cebu Air said in an advisory on its website. Rubber boats, power generators and chainsaws have been stockpiled in Visayas, according to the Office of Civil Defense.

The Philippines, battered by cyclones that form over the Pacific Ocean, is the second most-at-risk nation globally from tropical storms after Japan, according to Maplecroft, a research company based in Bath in the U.K. Super Typhoon Haiyan, the strongest storm in the world to hit land, killed more than 6,200 people in November of last year and left more than a thousand missing.

The benchmark Philippine Stock Exchange Index fell 1.3 percent at the noon break in Manila, poised for the biggest drop since Oct. 13.

“It’s now more certain that the we are on the typhoon’s path,” said Allan Yu, who helps manage $7.3 billion as first vice president at Metropolitan Bank & Trust Co. “Many investors are taking profit, worried by the damage this will cause on infrastructure and the impact it will have on growth.”

Super Typhoon

Hagupit is tracking a path similar to Haiyan, which devastated the central Philippines, the weather bureau said. People in the capital must also prepare for the storm, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas said at a briefing today. Hagupit, which according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center is a super typhoon, will probably affect about two thirds of the nation’s provinces, he said yesterday.

As many as 12.9 million people may be affected, the United Nations’ Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System said on its website. Hagupit “can have a high humanitarian impact.”

President Benigno Aquino, during a televised meeting at the disaster-risk agency in Manila yesterday, ordered government agencies to secure rice warehouses, power and telecommunications resources for critical operations. Nineteen provinces within the first 100-kilometer radius of the storm’s central track are considered highly critical areas, where damage to agriculture is expected to be heavy, travel dangerous and moderate to heavy disruption of electricity likely, state meteorologists said.

At least 8,000 people are staying at 21 evacuation centers in Dinagat, provincial public information officer Jane Mayola said. About 1,500 people have left their homes near the shore in Tacloban City in Leyte province, where thousands were killed when Haiyan triggered storm surges, Superintendent Carlos Centinaje, police community relations officer in Eastern Visayas, said by phone.

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