Philippines disaster city braces for strong typhoon

Philippines disaster city braces for strong typhoon
Residents and survivors light candles along a road to commemorate the first anniversary of the devastating Typhoon Haiyan in Tacloban City, central Philippines on Nov 8, 2014.

TACLOBAN, Philippines - Authorities in a Philippine city ravaged by Super Typhoon Haiyan were Wednesday faced with how to keep residents still living in tents after the 2013 disaster safe as a new, powerful cyclone threatened to bring giant waves ashore.

The state weather service said Typhoon Hagupit was heading west for the central islands of Samar and Leyte, and would make landfall as early as Saturday afternoon with gusts of up to 170 kilometres (106 miles) an hour.

Residents in the city of Tacloban, which bore the brunt of Haiyan - the most powerful storm ever to make landfall - last year were clearing out grocery shelves in an effort to stock up on emergency provisions ahead of the storm.

Meanwhile authorities were due to meet later Wednesday to identify new evacuation centres far from shore.

Tacloban city Vice Mayor Jerry Yaokasin said about 500 families were still living in tents more than a year after waves up to seven metres (23 feet) tall driven ashore by Haiyan destroyed their homes.

They and some 3,000 other families housed in temporary shelters are the priority in case the city government orders a mandatory evacuation, he said.

The weather service said Wednesday shorelines are vulnerable to "storm surges" or walls of water up to four metres tall that could be driven ashore by Hagupit's violent winds.

"Of course they are deadly. These would be at least one storey tall," state weather forecaster Alczar Aurelio told AFP. "We tell our people, 'Do not panic but take precautionary measures'," Yaokasin told AFP.

Haiyan claimed more than 7,350 lives as it swept in off the Pacific.

Many of the dead were from Tacloban, the regional capital of more than 220,000 people on Leyte island, an impoverished, largely agricultural region.

Aurelio said there was a "60 per cent" chance Samar and Leyte would be hit by Hagupit because a high-pressure wall of air in the northern Pacific was preventing the typhoon from veering north.

Tacloban resident Ailyn Metran told AFP staff at her state health insurance company office have been told to pack away computers and documents ahead of Hagupit.

"I can't concentrate at work because I keep checking the (disaster alert) websites," Metran said.

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