Half a million Filipinos fled their homes as differing forecasts about the path of a dangerously erratic typhoon one predicting it will graze the capital, Manila prompted a wide swath of the country to prepare for a weekend of destructive winds and rain.
Typhoon Hagupit Filipino for “smash” was expected to hit the central Philippines late today, lashing parts of a region that was devastated by last year’s Typhoon Haiyan and left more than 7,300 people dead and missing. The typhoon regained strength today but forecasters said it will begin rapidly weakening as it approaches land.
“I’m scared,” said Haiyan survivor Jojo Moro. “I’m praying to God not to let another disaster strike us again. We haven’t recovered from the first.”
The 42-year-old businessman, who lost his wife, daughter and mother last year in Tacloban city, said he stocked up on sardines, instant noodles, eggs and water.
Dozens of domestic flights were canceled and inter-island ferry services were suspended. About half a million people have been evacuated in Leyte and Samar provinces, including Tacloban, this time with little prompting from the government, said Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman.
“We’ve not heard of villagers resisting to be evacuated,” regional disaster-response director Blanche Gobenciong said. “Their trauma is still so fresh.”
Television footage showed residents in Tacloban stacking sandbags to block floodwaters. One McDonald’s store also was closed and boarded up. During last year’s typhoon onslaught, most stores and supermarkets in the city were looted by residents as food ran out.
At least 47 of the country’s 81 provinces are considered potentially at high risk from Hagupit, officials said. The first one in its path is Eastern Samar province, where it is expected to make landfall late today. It is then expected to cut across central islands along a route northwest. But its path thereafter is debatable.
The computer models of the two agencies tracking the typhoon closely the US military’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center in Hawaii and the Philippine weather agency predicted different directions for the typhoon.
The US agency said Hagupit (pronounced HA’-goo-pit) may veer northwest after coming inland and sweep past the southern edge of Manila, a city of more than 12 million people. The Philippine agency, known by its acronym PAGASA, projected a more southern path. But both tracks appeared to be coming closer together as it approached land.