The central Philippines is bracing for another very powerful storm that could make landfall Saturday.
Philippine President Benigno Aquino is looking to use the 1.5-day window before Typhoon Hagupit (hah-goo-PEET) is expected to hit to solidify the country’s emergency response.
Little more than a year ago, Super Typhoon Haiyan rampaged through the same area of the country, obliterating houses, knocking out power and leaving more than 7,300 dead or missing.
During a nationally televised meeting of the country’s disaster management council, Aquino urged the panel to move quickly so that residents still reeling from the after-effects of Haiyan do not panic.
“Our job really is to calm them down to minimize any of the negative repercussions from an event such as this. So I’m pressing everybody: The checklist of what has to be done, preferably should have been done yesterday,” Aquino said.
The panic has manifested itself in the areas hardest hit by Haiyan, which destroyed 1.1 million homes.
Panicked buying, hoarding
In Tacloban City, which suffered the brunt of the deaths from the storm, several businesses reported panic buying and hoarding of groceries and fuel.
Officials said stores shut their doors, which prompted Aquino to call for the trade department to set up temporary discount stores.
A number of municipalities with airports are expected to be hit hard by the approaching typhoon. So there were questions of the best location to preposition military craft that officials anticipate will be needed in the event of an emergency response.
State forecasters place Hagupit’s maximum sustained winds at 205 kilometers per hour, while gusts could reach 220 kilometers per hour. Officials are expecting three- to four-meter storm surges.
Last year’s super typhoon kicked up tsunami-like surges that caused most of the casualties.
Social welfare officials said tens of thousands of emergency food packs are ready for distribution in Eastern Samar and Samar provinces. Hagupit is expected to first make landfall in these provinces.
The energy department is urging hospitals to have generators ready because it expects power lines to “definitely fall.” The current lines are temporary replacements for what was destroyed during Haiyan.
International aid agencies working on Haiyan recovery projects are also juggling simultaneous concerns. They are rushing to move their own workers to safety, while also nudging residents to get to higher ground.
Richard Sandison is the emergency response manager for Britain-based Plan International. The agency has set up offices near Tacloban and pledged $61 million toward Haiyan aid efforts.
“We’ve learned a lot of lessons from Haiyan and we’re incorporating those lessons learned. Communities now have a better understanding of what a storm surge is,” Sandison said.
In nearby Palo town, which suffered significant deaths, the pastor at the main cathedral said residents do not need to be pushed to evacuate their homes. Monsignor Rex Ramirez said they have been asking at the church where they can go for safety.