Tens of thousands under lockdown evacuate as Typhoon Vongfong strikes Philippines
The typhoon struck eastern Samar at around noon local time Thursday. It is the first named storm of the 2020 season in the West Pacific.
Vongfong packed winds of at least 115 mph, an intensity that makes it the equivalent of a category 3 hurricane.
The storm’s violent winds triggered the evacuation of tens of thousands of people, according to Reuters news agency.
At least 200,000 people live in coastal areas near the area of Samar affected.
The pandemic has complicated the evacuation process in a country frequently struck by typhoons. More than 50 million people in the Philippines are living under strict lockdown rules imposed by President Rodrigo Duterte in an attempt to contain the virus.
The country currently has 11,876 cases of the disease, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
In order to combat its spread, evacuation centers in the central Philippines will only be filled to half capacity, according to Reuters. Evacuees will be expected to wear face masks.
Vongfong is expected to gradually turn northwest and it is likely to weaken over land.
Significant rainfall is expected to continue over parts of the Philippines, including the vast Visayas and Bicol regions and northern Luzon.
The West Pacific typhoon season doesn’t have a defined beginning and end like the Atlantic hurricane season, as storms form in the area throughout the year.
Vongfong’s arrival marks the eighth-latest start to the season since 1950, according to Phil Klotzbach, a research scientist at Colorado State University.
Due to the Philippines’ location in the tropical Pacific, the country is hit by around eight to nine storms in an average year. The typhoon is also named Ambo locally in the Philippines.