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Thousands evacuate as strongest typhoon of 2020 approaches Philippines

A man cleans stairs along a river with empty billboards in preparation for typhoon Goni in Pasay City, Philippines, 31 October 2020. According to reports, typhoon Goni is now a super typhoon with its winds forecasted to reach 249 kilometers per hour. Goni is expected to make landfall in the eastern provinces of Aurora and Quezon and make its way through Central Luzon on the evening of 01 November or morning morning of 02 November, according to the local weather bureau.
A man cleans stairs along a river with empty billboards in preparation for typhoon Goni in Pasay City, Philippines, 31 October 2020. According to reports, typhoon Goni is now a super typhoon with its winds forecasted to reach 249 kilometers per hour. Goni is expected to make landfall in the eastern provinces of Aurora and Quezon and make its way through Central Luzon on the evening of 01 November or morning morning of 02 November, according to the local weather bureau. EPA/MARK R. CRISTINO

MANILA, Oct 31 (Reuters) — Philippine officials on Saturday ordered evacuation of thousands of residents in the southern part of the main Luzon island as a category 5 storm that is the world’s strongest this year approaches the Southeast Asian nation.

Typhoon Goni, with 215 kph sustained winds and gusts of up to 265 kph, will make landfall on Sunday as the strongest typhoon to hit the Philippines since Haiyan that killed more than 6,300 people in 2013.

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Pre-emptive evacuations have started in coastal and landslide-prone communities in the provinces of Camarines Norte and Camarines Sur, while Albay provincial government would order residents in risky areas to leave their homes, Gremil Naz, a local disaster official, told DZBB radio station. “The strength of this typhoon is no joke.”

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Typhoon Molave last week killed 22 people, mostly through drowning in provinces south of the capital Manila, which is also in the projected path of Goni, the 18th tropical storm in the country.

Authorities are facing another hurdle as social distancing needs to be imposed in evacuation centers to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The Philippines has the second highest COVID-19 infections and deaths in Southeast Asia, next only to Indonesia.

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Relief goods, heavy machinery and personal protective equipment are already positioned in key areas, Filipino Grace America, mayor of Infanta town in Quezon province, told DZBB radio. “But because of the COVID-19 pandemic, our funds for calamity concerns and expenses are insufficient.”

Local officials canceled port operations and barred fishers from setting sail.

Typhoon Goni, moving westward at 20 kph from the Pacific Ocean, will bring intense rains over the capital and 14 provinces nearby on Saturday evening, and threats of floods and landslides.

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Another typhoon, Atsani, is gaining strength just outside the Philippines. Around 20 typhoons hit the Philippines every year.

(Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Michael Perry)