Killer surge fears prompt mass Philippine evacuation

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Residents of Tacloban, Leyte, Philippines peer out of a window after Typhoon Haiyan ravaged the island. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

A potentially deadly new typhoon is set to make landfall in the Philippines on Saturday only 13 months after the last killer storm surge.

The worst case scenario is that Typhoon Hagupit – known locally as Ruby – could affect 30 million people with gusts of up to 70 metres per second.

In November 2013 typhoon Haiyan caused 6,300 deaths and caused billions of dollars of damage.

Hagupit – which means "lash" in Filipino — could either head straight for the Philippines or make landfall just north of the island nation on Saturday afternoon.

But UN spokesman Denis McClean said "no-one's taking that for granted just yet".

He said a huge evacuation effort is under way:

"Typhoon Hagupit is triggering one of the largest evacuations we've ever seen in peacetime. It certainly seems to be rivalling the one million figure for the number of people moved out of harm's way when Cyclone Phailin was threatening the coastline of India in Odisha state just over a year ago. We know that the numbers in Cebu province alone are about 200,000, schools have been shut, evacuation centres are filling up, and local government offices are closed; people are rapidly moving out of danger zones."  (29″)

The Philippines sees 20 or so serious storms every year, according to the UN agency in charge of disaster reduction (UNISDR).

It's hard to know just where Hagupit will hit since typhoons can make landfall several times, forecasters say.

Mr McClean added that thousands of people were taking this latest threat "very seriously", particularly in Tacloban region where Hayan killed 3,000 people.

The World Food Programme says it has enough stores to feed 1.8 million storm victims for two weeks if necessary.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations

Duration: 1’37″


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