Nearly a million people were evacuated from their homes in the Philippines as Hurricane Goni, the strongest hurricane this year, approached.
Torrential rain and winds of 215 km / h (133mph) are expected to make landfall on the main island of Luzon on Sunday, passing through the capital Manila.
Disaster response officials have warned there will be widespread damage.
Goni is the strongest storm to hit the Philippines since Typhoon Haiyan killed more than 6,000 people in 2013.
This time, the preparation was complicated by the Covid-19 virus, which caused 380,739 infections and resulted in 7,221 deaths in the Philippines.
Sen. Christopher Go, President Rodrigo Duterte’s top aide, said during a virtual press conference: “We are having trouble with Covid-19, and then there is another disaster.
Typhoon Goni – known as Rolly in the Philippines – is expected to make landfall on the eastern Bicol area of Luzon, and civil defense chief Ricardo Jalad said “nearly a million” people there had been displaced .
He also said about 1,000 coronavirus patients in Manila and nearby Bulacan province who are currently in large quarantine tents could be transferred to hotels and hospitals.
People are advised to prepare themselves for the possibility of widespread flooding and landslides caused by heavy rain and strong winds.
Mark Timbal, of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Board, told local TV station ABS-CBN: “The storm surge is imminent on our east coast. “We are monitoring volcanoes Mayon and Taal for possible volcanic mud streams.”
Ports and airports have been closed, and government-operated schools, gyms and evacuation centers are being used as emergency shelters.
“Evacuation of people is more difficult at the moment because of Covid-19,” Bicol regional civil defense spokesman Alexis Naz told AFP.
Relief goods, heavy machinery and personal protective equipment have been shipped to areas of need, but a local mayor in Quezon province said the pandemic has depleted their funds for the cases. natural disaster emergency.
The Philippines suffers an average of 20 storms each year. About 22 people were killed the week before the Molave storm hit the same area currently preparing for Goni.