Australian aid agency poised as Philippines braces for typhoon

Typhoon Hagupit has gained strength as it moved towards the Philippines, threatening many of the same communities affected by Typhoon Haiyan, the most powerful storm ever recorded on land which killed or left missing more than 7350 people last year.

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Typhoon Hagupit – Filipino for “smash” – strengthened overnight with its sustained winds intensifying to 215 kilometres per hour and gusts of 250kph.

“We have alerted the people of Manila and we’re ready.”

The local weather agency’s forecasts show the typhoon may hit Eastern Samar province late Saturday or early Sunday.

But a forecast by the US military’s Joint Typhoon Warning Centre in Hawaii said Hagupit may veer northward after making landfall and possibly threaten Manila, which has a population of more than 12 million people.

“We have alerted the people of Manila and we’re ready,” Mayor Joseph Estrada said, while acknowledging “these typhoons change direction all the time”

Adam Poulter the Manager of the Humanitarian and Emergency Response Unit for CARE Australia told SBS, CARE staff had already prepared much of their emergency response.

“We’re prepositioning food to be able to provide that. Shelter will be a priority so we’re looking at shelter items that we can distribute, fast help for people like plastic sheets and also iron sheets to help people when they come to rebuild. Financial assistance will also be needed for people to recover their livelihoods.”

In Tacloban, one of the cities worst-hit by Haiyan, some residents had reportedly left coastal areas well ahead of the typhoon’s arrival, and those staying behind had emptied supermarket shelves of supplies.

CARE Australia’s Adam Poulter said his thoughts were with the people of the Philippines who were facing yet another storm so soon after Typhoon Haiyan.

“Our thoughts are with those communities who are potentially in the path of what looks to a super typhoon again. Sadly these are communities that were hit by Haiyan a year ago. So just hoping this storm changes its track, goes out to see our loses strength because it’s going to be really hard for them facing a similar storm again, just one year later.”

Thousands of people have been stranded in the Philippines on Friday after flights and sea travel were cancelled ahead of Hagupit’s expected landfall.

School classes were also suspended in central and eastern provinces, while more than 2200 people were stranded in 12 ports after the coast guard prevented ships from sailing.

Dozens of domestic flights were also cancelled and diverted, the national disaster risk management council said.

The United Nations said Typhoon Hagupit could affect a region populated by more than four million people, in a country which sees an average of 20 major storms a year.

The Philippines has been affected by a series of major storms in recent years.

In 2011 more than 1200 people were killed in flooding from Tropical Storm Washi on the island of Mindanao, while in 2012 Typhoon Bopha left more than 1900 people missing or dead in another part of Mindanao.