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Typhoon threatens Covid relief in Philippines

Government and church authorities say Ambo is an added burden amid the pandemic

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Typhoon threatens Covid relief in Philippines

Typhoon Ambo rips roofs off houses as it batters the town of Samar in the Philippines. (Photo courtesy of Renzel Copico) 

Typhoon Ambo has made landfall in the Philippines to threaten the country’s Covid-19 relief efforts.

The first typhoon to hit the country this year arrived in San Policarpo, Eastern Samar, at 12.15pm local time on May 14, bringing winds of 150kph with gusts up to 185kph.

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) earlier warned that Ambo, a Category 3 storm, would bring violent winds and heavy to torrential rain to the northern parts of Eastern Samar and Samar, as well as to Northern Samar.

The weather department has advised that some areas face “forced evacuations” should there be storm surges.

“Along with large swells, this storm surge may cause potentially life-threatening coastal inundation. Sea travel is risky for all types of sea craft over the seaboards of areas under its path. Forced evacuations along coastal areas may be necessary,” it said in a statement.

Authorities fear Ambo’s landfall is an extra challenge to those on duty at quarantine checkpoints.

“We only have tents at our checkpoints. With heavy rains and strong winds, I do not think it is even advisable for our officers [police and military] to guard them if the typhoon will endanger our lives as well,” Karlo Medina, a police officer told UCA news.

Medina said the typhoon would make it more difficult to maintain physical distancing and to conduct relief operations in flooded areas.

“At present, our [relief] supplies are not even sufficient to feed the hungry. With another catastrophe coming, more people will be hungry. I hope their homes are not destroyed, otherwise they will have no place to go,” he added.

Dioceses on the main Philippine island of Luzon have prepared churches as evacuation centers.

“Our church is open to evacuees. But we cannot accommodate as many as we did before [during previous typhoons] because we need to observe social distancing rules,” said Father Joem Afable from Sorsogon Diocese.

He said he feared the worst as many people’s homes are not strongly built. “If their homes are destroyed, they will have nowhere to spend the rest of the quarantine period,” he added.

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