Philippines Faces Weather Challenges in Its Fight Against Virus

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The Philippines’ fight against the coronavirus is likely to become more complicated with the onset of typhoon season, during which it typically has to evacuate tens of thousands of people from storm-hit areas.

“As the rainy season approaches, the battle against the virus will become more challenging,” the finance department said in a May 15 bulletin. “The flu season will have started and flooding could occur in low-lying areas. Distancing in temporary relocation sites could be difficult to implement.”

The Philippines experiences an average of 20 cyclones a year, mostly in the second half, and those forced to flee are usually housed in packed shelters. Evacuees are compelled to wear masks and practice social distancing to prevent infections, while personnel wear personal protective equipment, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said on Friday.

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Typhoon Vongfong, the latest storm to hit the country and the first of the year, prompted more than 150,000 people to flee their homes and seek shelter this week, according to authorities. The cyclone weakened on Saturday as it moved into northern provinces.

Intense rains and strong winds damaged houses and crops as Vongfong slammed eastern provinces on Thursday and Friday. At its peak the typhoon packed winds of as high as 125 kilometers per hour (about 78 miles). At least two people died and seven were injured in separate incidents related to the storm, authorities said.

On Saturday, the typhoon still carried winds of 75 kilometers per hour near its center and had gusts up to 125 kilometers per hour, the weather bureau said.

The Philippines had 12,091 coronavirus cases, including 806 deaths, as of Friday.

— With assistance by Cecilia Yap

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