MANILA – A typhoon that reaches winds of nearly 100 miles an hour struck eastern Philippines on Thursday after gaining strength as it crossed the Pacific Ocean, the state weather agency said.
Typhoon Vongfong traveled slowly to the west at about 10 m.p.h. when it arrived at 12:15 in the northern Samar province in the eastern Philippines, according to the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration.
Analysts forecast it could pour torrential rain until Saturday in a large area of the Philippines, possibly including Luzon, the country's largest island, which has a population of 60 million and includes the capital, Manila.
Much of Luzon remains confined because of the coronavirus epidemic, which could complicate emergency efforts if the storm hit the island with specific force.
"It will definitely increase our emergency situation," said Harry Roque, spokesman for President Rodrigo Duterte. "Although the areas expected to be hit by the typhoon are not heavily devastated by Covid-19, we have established some guidelines."
He said that all families taken to evacuation areas would have to follow strict social disengagement guidelines. But, judging by the evacuations during the previous typhoons, he admitted that "imposing that would be a challenge".
The country's civil defense office said the storm could cause some damage to homes made of light materials, and advised people living along the coast to move into evacuation shelters.
Meteorological authorities said the storm was gaining strength on Thursday. The place where he arrived on dry land, San Policarpo, is a city with more than 14,000 inhabitants in the northeast of the island of Samar. There were no immediate reports of deaths or injuries.
"Along with large waves, this storm can cause life-threatening coastal floods," Pagasa, the weather agency, said in a statement on Thursday morning.
The Philippines is in a typhoon belt and at least 20 storms – some of them deadly – usually plague the country every year.
In 2003, more than 6,000 people were killed when Super Typhoon Haiyan caused widespread devastation, mainly in the central city of Tacloban, which was inundated by large waves.
The storm's name, Vongfong, derives from the Cantonese term wasp.