Philippines: Typhoon Ambo (Vongfong) - Information bulletin

Situation Report
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The situation

According to the Philippines Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) as of 04:00 hours local time on 14 May 2020, Typhoon Vongfong is approximately 230 kilometers east of the Catarman, Northern Samar, moving west at 15 kmph. On entering the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR), it has been locally named “Typhoon Ambo”. PAGASA reports that Typhoon Ambo has maximum sustained winds of 150 kmph near the center and gustiness of up to 185 kmph. It has rapidly intensified from a severe tropical storm into a Category 3 typhoon over the past 12 hours.

Tropical wind signal #3 1 has been raised over Luzon, Mindanao and the Visayas (eastern and northern Samar). The trajectory of the weather disturbance is currently forecast to make landfall over the northeastern part of northern Samar province, eastern Visayas (Region VIII) in the afternoon of 14 May 2020, before moving towards Sorsogon province, Bicol (Region V).

Heavy to intense rainfall is predicted in Samar provinces, eastern Visayas (Region VIII) and in Aurora, Quezon,
Marinduque, northern Samar, Quezon and Romblon provinces, Bicol (Region V). Storm surges between 1.0 to 3.0 meters may also be experienced in coast areas. Strong winds, storm surges and rainfall can be expected to cause flooding and trigger landslides, resulting in casualties, as well as damages to crops livelihoods, livestock, infrastructure and housing.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) has warned that heavy rain associated with Typhoon Ambo may also cause lahar2 and sediment laden streamflow along the rivers that run down the slope of Mayon Volcano in Albay province, Bicol (Region V).
Mayon is regarded as the Philippines most active volcano, last erupting in 2018. Approximately, 729,000 people (in 350 barangays) live within the 17 kilometers Danger Zone of Mayon Volcano and would be at risk in the event of an eruption (Philippines Statistics Authority).

From 10 May 2020, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) has been issuing advisory warnings. As the weather system comes closer and more information on the expected impact becomes available, the NDRRMC will begin to disseminate public warnings on flooding and landslides.

There are concerns that the weather system could cause damage in communities across Bicol (Region V) and Easter Visayas (Region VIII), which have been struck in recent years notably by Typhoon Melor (2015, MDRPH020), Typhoon Nock-Ten (2016, MDRPH023), Tropical Storm Usman (2019, MDRPH030) and Typhoon Kammuri (2019, MDRPH037).

The Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System (GDACS) has reported that 7.1 million people could be exposed to the effects to this weather disturbance (Category 1 or above), and has issued a “Red Alert” rating of 2.5 (from a scale of 3), predicting a possible “High” level of humanitarian impact.

Typhoon Ambo will be become the Philippines first tropical cyclone in 2020, and comes at a time when the authorities and partner organizations are tackling the COVID-19 outbreak, which has resulted in 11,618 cases and 772 deaths in the country since the beginning of 2020 (Department of Health). The COVID-19 outbreak has led to the introduction enhanced community quarantines, physical distancing, and limitation of movement within the entire country. This can be expected to complicate actions required to evacuate and support those affected by the impacts of Typhoon Ambo, and potentially increase the risk of transmission. There are also ongoing responses underway to disease outbreaks (measles and polio), earthquakes (Mindanao), typhoons (Kammuri and Phanfone), and volcanic eruptions (Taal Volcano).