Thousands fleeing Ambo face COVID-19 threat at evacuation centers

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 15 2020 08:34 AM | Updated as of May 15 2020 09:50 AM

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MANILA - Typhoon Ambo on Friday continued to lash coronavirus-stricken Philippines with strong winds and heavy rains that sent tens of thousands to evacuation centers while observing pandemic protocols and authorities scrambled for funds.

The first storm of the year made landfall 6 times between Thursday afternoon and early Friday in Eastern Samar, Dalupiri and Capul islands in Northern Samar, Ticao and Burias islands in Masbate, and Quezon.

In Albay, which is on the storm's forecast path that runs near the capital Manila, some 15,000 families required evacuation with shelters accepting only half their capacity, said Cedric Daep, disaster chief in the central province.

Churches, he said, hosted evacuees who were asked to sleep one bench apart to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The health department requires a one-meter distance between evacuees.

Many who fled from the storm carried relief relief goods that Albay authorities earlier distributed for the coronavirus lockdown of Luzon, Daep said.

"Ang resources na ginagamit namin iyong pang-COVID din po," he told DZMM.
 
(We are using the resources for COVID-19.)

Residents wearing masks for protection against coronavirus disease (COVID-19) arrive at a school turned evacuation center as they prepare for Typhoon Vongfong in Legazpi City, Albay province, May 14, 2020. Nino Luces, Reuters

Eastern Samar, where the typhoon first hit land, earlier converted most of its evacuation centers into quarantine sites for coronavirus patients, which forced the local government to use schools that the pandemic had shuttered, 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 DZMM.

(We can't bring the evacuees to the centers especially those with potential COVID carriers. You can't mix them up.)

Camarines Norte also used COVID-19 resources and re-aligned funds from other projects to feed up to 15,000 evacuees, said incident management commander Atty. Don Culvera.

Only 15 evacuees were allowed to share one classroom, he said.

The storm also knocked down power and communication lines in the whole Northern Samar, where some 10,600 people evacuated, said provincial disaster chief Josh Echano. Authorities, he said, had yet to receive reports of any resident killed or missing due to Ambo.

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Moderate to heavy with at times intense rains will persist Friday in Bicol Region, and Quezon, Aurora, Marinduque, Laguna, Rizal, Metro Manila, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino provinces, said state weather bureau PAGASA.

Metro Manila, where 12 million people will remain under lockdown until May 31, is under storm signal 2, which means 61 to 120 kph winds may damage poorly constructed signs/billboards and down wooden or old electric posts.

PAGASA also hoisted storm signals over the following areas:

On Saturday, the typhoon will dump moderate to heavy with at times intense rains over Cagayan Valley, Cordillera Administrative Region, Aurora, and Nueva Ecija, warned the weather agency.

Moving northwest at 15 kph, Ambo is expected to leave the Philippine area on Tuesday. The storm was in San Andres, Quezon at 7 a.m., packing 125 kph maximum sustained winds and 165 kph gusts, said PAGASA.

Visit the ABS-CBN Weather Center for more updates