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Thousands Flee As Typhoon Menaces The Philippines


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

Hundreds of thousands of people in the Philippines have evacuated their homes ahead of a powerful storm. Typhoon Hagupit is expected to make landfall later today. It is expected to hit some of the same area that was devastated by Typhoon Haiyan just over a year ago. That storm killed thousands of people and displaced millions more.

Aurora Almendral joins us on the line from Manila. Thanks for being with us.


SIMON: How bad are conditions expected to get?

ALMENDRAL: Things are expected to be pretty bad. They're expecting storm surges of up to 15 feet and the wind speeds of the Category 4 typhoon is going to be pretty fast, so wind damage will be big. And because the storm system itself is moving very, very slowly, it gives the storm a lot more time to drop rain onto the affected areas and to the cities all across the Philippines, which means more flooding, more landslides. There've already been reports of flooding up to a meter high in Samar, small landslides and high winds and a lot of rain.

SIMON: We mentioned that hundreds of thousands of people have evacuated their homes. Where do they go?

ALMENDRAL: There are a lot of people who are evacuating voluntarily. Some of them are going to hotels, to relatives houses. Others are evacuating to official shelters, schools, churches, things like that. And there are even reports of people in Samar who have evacuated to caves. They're just trying to get as far away from the possible storm surge area as possible. A large part of Tacloban is on a small narrow peninsula and the entire area was completely devastated by Typhoon Haiyan. That neighborhood, which had used to be very densely populated, is completely empty now. Anyone who remained there has left and moved somewhere else. They've gone to evacuation areas that they hope will be safer than their homes.

SIMON: So the experience of that previous typhoon is helping to inform people about what to do now?

ALMENDRAL: Absolutely. The typhoon is still very fresh in people's minds. The devastation was so great that even a year afterwards, even a small rain would cause fear and panic. So something like this it's really affecting them. It's really affecting the way that they're responding to the reports of the storm.

So in Tacloban and in other parts of the Philippines, there is a culture of men staying behind to keep an eye on the house while the women and children went to evacuation centers. And from what I understand, that's not happening now. Everybody has left. They're prioritizing their lives over their possessions and officials monitored the area up until the last minute, just to make sure everybody got out in time from the coastal areas.

SIMON: A major storm every year though doesn't give an area a chance to rebuild, does it?

ALMENDRAL: No, it really doesn't. I was just there less than a month ago for the one-year anniversary of Typhoon Haiyan and the mayor characterized the city as about being halfway built, rebuilt, from the devastation of that storm. And many of the houses are still flimsy and transitional. Some of the larger houses, they have just been finished getting renovated. So the recovery is expected to take three to five years. But instead, they're getting another storm within 13 months and it's likely to be pretty devastating.

SIMON: Aurora Almendral reporting from Manila. Thanks very much for being with us.

ALMENDRAL: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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