A strong typhoon slammed into the eastern Philippines on Thursday after authorities evacuated tens of thousands of people while trying to avoid the virus risks of overcrowding emergency shelters. The first typhoon to hit the country this year rapidly gained force as it blew from the Pacific then barged ashore in San Policarpio town in Eastern Samar province around noon, weather agency administrator Vicente Malano said. Typhoon Vongfong, which was packing maximum sustained winds of 93mph and gusts of up to 115mph, is forecast to blow northwestward and barrel across densely populated eastern provinces and cities before exiting in the north Sunday.
Overcrowding in emergency shelters is a common scene in the archipelago, and many officials faced a difficult dilemma on how to shield villagers from the double threats. "This is very complicated," the mayor of Jipapan, a town in the typhoon’s path, tells the AP. The only evacuation centers for its 8,000 villagers are a gymnasium and the town hall. Mayor Benjamin Ver, who also is the town’s only doctor, says he has secured enough face masks to protect his villagers from the virus in the town hall when the typhoon hits. Observing social distancing "is almost impossible" if all the villagers are cramped in the town hall, but Ver says he will see what else can be done.
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