Philippines braces for 'Ompong,' evacuations start

Raphael Bosano, Jeff Canoy and Jeck Batallones, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 13 2018 11:42 AM | Updated as of Sep 13 2018 01:10 PM

MANILA -- Residents on the path of Typhoon Ompong (international name: Mangkhut) tied down their roofs and fled to makeshift shelters as the strongest storm so far this year churned towards the Philippines' northern tip.

Ompong is forecast to slam into Cagayan province in the northeast Saturday morning and is expected to bring heavy rains within its 900-kilometer diameter.

In Pasuquin town, Ilocos Norte province, garlic farmer Delaila Pasion led her grandchildren to an evacuation center, fearing Ompong could damage her house that was already battered by a previous storm.

"Baka mas malakas 'yung ulan kesa sa habagat. Kaya takot na takot kami," she told ABS-CBN News. 

(The rains will probably be stronger compared to those brough by the monsoon. This is why we're very scared.) 

"Wala na akong magagawa kasi kalikasan na yan, magtrabaho na lang ulit... Mas importante ang buhay namin," she said.

(I can't do anything because this is nature. I'll just start over... Our lives are more important.)

In the Batanes islands, residents tied the roofs of their homes to the ground and fitted their windows with wooden planks.

On Catanduanes island, among areas nearest to the approaching storm, authorities prepared food packs and 11,000 sacks of rice from the National Food Authority, said provincial board member Raffy Zuniega.

The Ilocos Norte government prepositioned relief supplies in its town hall and imposed a liquor ban until after the typhoon's onslaught.

A similar ban on drinking alcohol was also imposed in Cagayan, where local officials have started to move residents away from coastal areas that may be hit by storm surges, Governor Manuel Mamba told radio DZMM. 

Residents are cooperating with the preemptive evacuation, recalling the onslaught of Supertyphoon Lawin, which hit Cagayan in 2016, he said.

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Mangkhut will be the strongest typhoon this year, peaking at gusts of up to 270 kilometers an hour on Thursday before easing to still-dangerous velocities as it approaches land, PAGASA said.

The Philippine Red Cross estimates 3 million Filipinos live on the direct path of Mangkhut, communications officer Mary Joy Evalarosa told AFP.

An average of 20 typhoons and storms lash the Philippines each year, killing hundreds of people and leaving millions in near-perpetual poverty.

Tropical Storm Karding and monsoon rains last month caused heavy flooding across central Luzon as well as parts of Manila, where an overflowing river swept away cars in one district.

The country's deadliest on record is Super Typhoon Yolanda, which left more than 7,350 people dead or missing across the central Philippines in November 2013.

Visit the ABS-CBN Weather Center for the latest weather updates.

With a report from Agence France-Presse