A TYPHOON heading for the Philippines has sparked panic-buying and an exodus from coastal areas.
Government forecasters said Typhoon Hagupit, which is carrying winds of 122mph and gusts of up to 143mph, might hit Eastern Samar province on Saturday.
It is expected to travel inland along the same route on which Typhoon Haiyan levelled villages and left more than 7,300 people dead and missing in November last year.
Haiyan survivor Emily Sagales, 23, said many of her neighbours in the central city of Tacloban had packed and fled to a sports stadium or the safer homes of relatives.
She said long queues had formed at shops and petrol stations, as residents hoarded basic goods.
In the wake of last year’s typhoon, which killed her mother-in-law and destroyed her home, Miss Sagales gave birth to a baby girl in a makeshift clinic filled with the injured and dying near Tacloban airport.
She said: “The trauma has returned. It’s worse now because I didn’t have a baby to worry about last year.”
Helen Buena, an employee at a supermarket in Tacloban, told how thousands of people had been stocking up on supplies.
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She said: “It’s not raining yet but people are panic buying after hearing about the typhoon warnings on television and radio.”
Haiyan demolished about a million houses and displaced some four million people in the central Philippines last year. Hundreds of people still living in tents in Tacloban have been prioritised for evacuation.
The government has put the military on full alert, while workers have opened evacuation centres and transported food packs to remote villages, which could be cut off by heavy rains.
In the capital, Manila, president Benigno Aquino led a nationally televised emergency meeting of disaster-response agencies and ordered steps to prevent panic-buying and the hoarding of goods.
The meeting discussed the readiness of hospitals and cargo planes and how police planned to maintain law and order and prevent the looting which erupted in Tacloban after Haiyan.
“[The approaching typhoon] presents a challenge but I think we’ve been challenged worse by Yolanda”, Mr Aquino told officials, referring to Haiyan’s local name. “I’d like everybody to become a busybody.”
The vice-mayor of Tacloban, the city worst hit by Haiyan, said the authorities were enforcing evacuation orders.
Jerry Yaokasin said: “We have no more excuse. We have gone through Yolanda, and to lose that many lives, it’s beyond our conscience already.
“Our problem is that we don’t have enough evacuation centres.”
Officials have decided to move a meeting next week of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum – to be attended by hundreds of diplomats from the group’s 21 member economies – to Manila, which forecasters say will probably be spared.
Meteorologists say there is a chance Hagupit could veer north towards Japan and miss the Philippines altogether, but officials said that they were preparing for the worst case.
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