Schools, offices shut as typhoon bears down on Philippines

World Today

Philippines TyphoonThis image captured by NASA’s Aqua satellite shows Typhoon Hagupit on Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2014 at 04:30 UTC in the western Pacific Ocean. (AP Photo/NASA Goddard MODIS Rapid Response)

Residents in the central Philippines fled coastal homes and stocked up on supplies as an approaching powerful storm brought back nightmares of last year’s deadly onslaught from Typhoon Haiyan.

In central Tacloban city, which was ravaged by Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda), people packed their clothes and fled to a sports stadium and safer homes of relatives.

Long lines formed at grocery stores and gas stations as residents stocked up on basic goods.

Typhoon Hagupit – Filipino for “smash” – was packing sustained winds of 205 kilometres (127 miles) per hour and gusts of up to 240 kph (149 mph) over the Pacific, about 700 kilometres (435 miles) off the country’s eastern coast.

Forecasts show it may hit Eastern Samar province on Saturday and barrel inland along the same route where Haiyan levelled villages and left more than 7,300 dead and missing in November last year.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino held a meeting with disaster agency officials in Manila to assess the preparation of the national and local governments.

“They’re saying now 50 provinces out of 88 (will be affected), this is in that sense worse than Yolanda (Haiyan), but we are supposed to be more experienced and more knowledgeable after Yolanda, so we should be able to do more once this passes through,” Aquino told local officials.

The government is mulling declaring a state of national calamity ahead of the storm to freeze prices of basic goods, as Aquino ordered the trade department to send more food supplies to provinces at risk of typhoon damage.

Aquino ordered officials to allay fears of the residents after reports of panic buying and stores being shut down in the central Philippines where the typhoon was forecast to hit land.

Report complied with information from Reuters and The Associated Press.