Flood-affected residents are evacuated from their homes next to a swollen river in Cagayan de Oro city on southern Mindanao island amid heavy rains brought about by Super Typhoon Rai on Dec. 16. (Photo: AFP)
By Joseph Peter Calleja and AFP
Dec 18 2021
Catholic churches ready to provide shelter from the strongest storm to hit the disaster-prone country this year
Thousands of people in the Philippines fled their homes and beachfront resorts as Super Typhoon Rai slammed into the country today, with a charity warning the storm could hit coastal communities “like a freight train.”
Rai was packing maximum sustained winds of 195 kilometers an hour as it made landfall on the southern island of Siargao at 1.30pm, the state weather forecaster said.
It is the strongest storm to hit the disaster-prone country this year.
“This monster storm is frightening and threatens to hit coastal communities like a freight train,” said Alberto Bocanegra, head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in the Philippines.
“We are very concerned that climate change is making typhoons more ferocious and unpredictable.”
The weather bureau warned “very destructive” winds could cause “heavy to very heavy damage to structures and vegetation” along with widespread flooding and rain-induced landslides.
Among the evacuees were domestic tourists visiting the country’s famed beaches and dive spots ahead of Christmas
More than 90,000 people sought emergency shelter as the storm charged across the Pacific Ocean, disaster agencies said.
Evacuations were still under way in areas in the typhoon’s path. Among the evacuees were domestic tourists visiting the country’s famed beaches and dive spots ahead of Christmas.
Foreign travelers are still banned from entering the Philippines under Covid-19 restrictions.
Verified video shot by tourists in Siargao showed trees swaying violently as people waited for the full impact of the typhoon.
In the town of Dapa, families slept on the floor of a sports complex turned into a temporary evacuation centre.
Scores of flights have been canceled and dozens of ports temporarily closed as the weather bureau warned several metre-high storm surges could cause “life-threatening flooding” in low-lying coastal areas.
Weather forecaster Christopher Perez said the winds could “topple electric posts and trees” and damage houses made of light materials. “Brace for heavy rains, brace for strong winds too,” Perez told a briefing.
Local authorities said the central government had given orders to release around 332 million pesos (US$6.64 million) to cover food and boarding expenses for affected families expected to arrive at evacuation centers.
“We are prepared. That’s why we are advising the public to evacuate their homes for their safety … the government will take care of their needs,” Undersecretary Ricardo Jalad of the National Disaster Risk Management department said on Dec. 16.
“We learned many things after the country was hit last year by typhoons Goni, Molave and Vamco. So, this time we are prepared, especially in prepositioning supplies for our evacuees.”
The Catholic Church is ready to help those who are in need. Follow the instructions from local authorities and consult parish priests if you need help
Father Rolando Quitad of Palo Archdiocese in Leyte province said Catholic churches would open their doors to anyone seeking shelter from the typhoon.
The priest, who works for the local branch of the Church’s social action arm Caritas, said volunteer groups would ensure the elderly and children are tended to should they seek shelter in church premises.
“The Catholic Church is ready to help those who are in need,” he told UCA News. “Follow the instructions from local authorities and consult parish priests if you need help. Caritas is there to support you.”
Rai, locally named Odette, is hitting the Philippines late in the typhoon season, with most cyclones developing between July and October.
It is the second super typhoon to threaten the country since September when Chanthu grazed the northeastern tip of the main island of Luzon.
Scientists have long warned that typhoons are becoming more powerful, and strengthening more rapidly, as the world becomes warmer because of man-made climate change.
A super typhoon is also known as a category five hurricane in the United States. About five storms of that power are recorded each year.
Rai is expected to weaken slightly as it moves across the Visayas region, and the Mindanao and Palawan islands, before emerging on Dec. 18 over the South China Sea and heading towards Vietnam.
The Philippines — ranked as one of the world’s most vulnerable countries to the impacts of climate change — is hit by an average of 20 storms and typhoons every year, which typically wipe out harvests, homes and infrastructure in already impoverished areas. – UCANews