Over 1m evacuated as Philippines braces for ‘world’s strongest storm’

Rivers were already flooded due to heavy rains in Ilagan town, Isabela province north of Manila on Oct. 31, 2020, ahead of Typhoon Goni’s landfall in the Philippines. (AFP/Villamor Visaya)
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Updated 01 November 2020

Over 1m evacuated as Philippines braces for ‘world’s strongest storm’

  • Typhoon has maximum winds of 215 km/h

MANILA: More than a million people were evacuated from Luzon island in the Philippines on Saturday, as the government prepared for the “world's strongest storm” to make landfall on Sunday.

Typhoon Goni, known locally as Rolly, is a category 5 storm with maximum sustained winds of 215 km/h and gusts of up to 265 km/h.

“Local officials have ordered mass evacuations, particularly in the coastal, flood and landslide-prone areas of Luzon island," Ricardo Jalad, executive director of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), said in a press briefing. 

In Albay province, at least 174,616 families or 794,000 people, were evacuated in addition to 200,000 in Camarines Sur, and more than 6,000 people in Camarines Norte – all in the Bicol region, Jalad added.

He told the media about the government's preparation for dealing with the typhoon, which is being termed the strongest to hit the country since Typhoon Haiyan killed more than 6,300 people in Nov. 2013.

“Based on available information, for 2020, this is the strongest typhoon so far. There is supporting data and science behind that,” Ariel Rojas, weather specialist at the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), said in a separate briefing.

Schools which have been empty since March due to the COVID-19 lockdown are to be used as evacuation centers, and Jalad said local authorities had also identified other facilities to house the affected population. Officials have been advised to monitor and ensure that COVID-19 protocols are observed at all times to prevent a surge in infections.

Jalad said the Department of Health had ordered the transfer of an estimated 1,000 COVID-19 patients — quarantined in medical tents and mega facilities — to hospitals and other, more secure, facilities.

The NDRRMC had earlier called on the public to prepare for and adhere to warnings about Typhoon Goni, which is expected to bring destructive winds and heavy rains.

According to PAGASA, the seaboards of northern Luzon and the eastern seaboards of central and southern Luzon may experience rough to very rough seas, so sea travel was risky over these areas, especially for mariners of small vessels.

It also warned that flooding, including flash floods, rain-induced landslides, and sediment-laden streamflows might occur during heavy or prolonged rainfall, especially in areas that were highly or very highly susceptible to these hazards.

It said there was a high risk of a storm surge of more than 10 feet high over the northern coastal areas of Quezon including Polillo Islands, Camarines provinces, and Catanduanes.

In its latest bulletin, PAGASA said Typhoon Goni had maintained its strength and was moving west-southwestward toward the Bicol area.

As of 1 p.m. Saturday, it was spotted 410 km east-northeast of Virac, Catanduanes, and is forecast to cross the mainland of Camarines provinces on Sunday morning and mainland Quezon by the afternoon.

CIA officer killed in Somalia: US media

Updated 27 November 2020

CIA officer killed in Somalia: US media

  • The US has some 700 troops training Somali forces and carrying out raids against Al-Shabab militants
  • Al-Shabab, an Al-Qaeda affiliate, is estimated to have between 5,000 and 9,000 fighters

WASHINGTON: A CIA officer was killed in combat in Somalia in recent days, US media said Thursday without releasing details of how the agent died.
The veteran officer was a member of the CIA’s Special Activities Center, a paramilitary branch that carries out some of the US intelligence agency’s most dangerous tasks, The New York Times said.
The officer died of injuries sustained during an operation last week, according to CNN.
The CIA has not commented publicly on the death.
Washington has some 700 troops deployed in Somalia carrying out training of Somali forces and conducting counter-terrorism raids against the Al-Shabab militant group, which Washington designated a terrorist movement in 2008.
Earlier this month, Washington put on its terror blacklist the leader of an elite unit of the Al-Qaeda-affiliated group blamed for a January attack in Kenya that killed three Americans.
Al-Shabab is estimated to have between 5,000 and 9,000 fighters who have vowed to overthrow the Somali government, which is supported by some 20,000 troops from the African Union.
The slain US operative was a veteran of special forces operations, having previously been a member of the elite SEAL Team 6, the Times reported.
The outgoing administration of President Donald Trump is considering withdrawing all US forces from Somalia by the time he leaves office in January, the paper added.
At the start of his term, Trump gave the Pentagon a freer hand to expand their operations, with both air strikes and ground raids, in the war-ravaged African country.
But an official report released in February said that “despite continued US air strikes in Somalia and US assistance to African partner forces, Al-Shabab appears to be a growing threat that aspires to strike the US homeland.”