MANILA - Eastern Samar scrambled Thursday to shelter its residents from Typhoon Ambo after converting most of its evacuation centers into quarantine facilities for the coronavirus pandemic, its governor said.
The central Philippine province facing the Pacific Ocean earlier quarantined some 4,000 people for possible COVID-19 infection, none of whom had tested positive yet for the virus, said Governor Ben Evardone.
"Hindi naman puwedeng dalhin namin doon iyong mga evacuees sa mga centers, lalo na kung mayroon dong naka-ano na COVID. Hindi puwedeng paghalo-haluin iyon," he told ABS-CBN's Teleradyo.
(We can't bring the evacuees to the centers especially where there are potential COVID carriers. You can't mix them up.)
"Papaano iyong social distancing?" he added.
(How can you implement social distancing?)
A one-meter distance between evacuees is required to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Department of Health said.
Evardone said he had no updates yet on how many people fled coastal areas since strong winds and rains began lashing the province before dawn.
The first storm of the year made landfall over San Policarpio, Eastern Samar at 12:15 p.m., packing maximum sustained winds of 150 kph and gusts of up to 185 kph, PAGASA said.
"Kaninang madaling-araw pa namin nararamdaman 'tong malakas na hangin at ulan. Akala ko nga kaninang umaga pag nag-landfall. Iyon pala, patikim lang," said Evardone.
(We have experienced strong winds and rain since dawn. I thought it already made landfall then. That was just a taste.)
Eastern Samar needs to realign funds into relief operations because most of its resources were "depleted" to help residents who had been under lockdown since March 22, he said.
"Grabe iyong paghahanda namin sa COVID crisis, ta's ito (Ambo) tumama pa sa amin," he said.
(We prepared well for the COVID crisis, and this hit us as well.)