Thousands evacuated as Typhoon Melor tracks across Philippines

Publié: 15 décembre 2015 10:25 CET

By Kate Marshall and Mary-Joy Evalarosa, IFRC

Philippine authorities pre-emptively evacuated 700,000 people in the path of Typhoon Melor which made landfall in northern Samar on Monday. The evacuations came following warnings of 4 metres storm surges in coastal areas in Bicol and the Visayas. More than half of the evacuees are in Albay, the most disaster-prone province that has become a showcase for successful disaster risk reduction management.

The Government’s ‘zero casualty’ push has become standard practice since super Typhoon Haiyan devastated the central Philippines in November 2013 when more than 6,300 people died, mainly as a consequence of the massive storm surges that accompanied the storm. The Government was heavily criticised for not doing enough to warn and prepare the population.

Since Typhoon Melor made landfall it has weakened and is now tracking across the islands of southern Luzon with winds slowing to about 140 km/hr. If it continues on its predicted trajectory the typhoon will exit the Philippine landmass by Wednesday night. Melor is expected to continue dumping heavy rain as it moves across southern Luzon and gale warnings have been issued for areas further north.

The last typhoon to hit the Philippines, Koppu, was also slow moving, dumping record amounts of rain that caused severe crop damage in the main rice bowl of Luzon Island. Melor will not have the same impact but is still expected to trigger floods and landslides. The rains accompanying the typhoon  are expected to help alleviate drought conditions caused by El Nino over the Eastern part of the Philippines, specifically: Northern Samar, Western Samar, Albay, Camarines Norte, and Quezon.

The national forecaster PAGASA has also warned people living in plain areas to be on alert for rivers of ‘lahar’ - mudslides caused when rain mixes with old volcanic ash deposits.

Philippine Red Cross has readied its local chapters, emergency response teams and community health volunteers to respond to humanitarian needs on the ground. Disaster preparedness stocks have been pre-positioned for 17,400 families and water search and rescue teams with boats and equipment have been placed on alert.

“We are continuously monitoring the situations in the field through the reports from our chapters and assessment teams in the field who will be moving from Samar to Albay and Sorsogon to give us first-hand reports on the priority needs of the affected communities,” said Richard Gordon, Chairman of the Philippine Red Cross.

As Melor makes its way across the Philippines another weather system is being monitored east of the southern island of Mindanao in case it forms into a typhoon. The low pressure area is expected to enter the Philippines early next week.