Ambo continues to weaken as it moves over northern Bulacan, southern Nueva Ecija

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 16) – Severe tropical storm Ambo (international name: Vongfong) continues to weaken as it approaches northern Bulacan and southern Nueva Ecija on Friday night.

The center of Ambo was located in the vicinity of San Miguel, Bulacan at 10 p.m., according to the 11 p.m. bulletin of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA).

PAGASA added Ambo decreased its sustained winds to 95 kph and gustiness of up to 160 kph.

Signal No. 2 is up in:

- Babuyan Islands

- southern and western portion of Isabela (Quezon, Mallig, Roxas, Quirino, San Manuel, Burgos, Gamu, Reina Mercedes, Aurora, Luna Cabatuan, Naguilian, Benito Soliven, Cauayan, San Guillermo, Dinapigue, San Mateo, Alicia, Angadanan, Ramon, San Isidro, Echague, Jones, San Agustin, Santiago, Cordon)

- Ilocos Norte

- Ilocos Sur

-Abra

-Kalinga

-Mountain Province

-Ifugao

-Benguet

- La Union

-Tarlac

- Pampanga

-Metro Manila

-Bulacan

-Rizal

-northern portion of Quezon (General Nakar, Infanta) including Polilio Islands

-Nueva Ecija

-Nueva Vizcaya

-Aurora

-Quirino

Meanwhile, Signal No. 1 is raised in Batanes, the rest of mainland Cagayan, the rest of Isabela, Zambales, Bataan, Batangas, Cavite, Laguna, and the central portion of Quezon (Real, Mauban, Sampaloc, Lucban, San Antonio, Tiaong, Dolores, Candelaria, Sariaya, Lucena City, Tayabas, Pagbilao, Atimonan, Padre Burgos, Agdangan, Unisan, Plaridel, Quezon, Alabat, Perez).

PAGASA said moderate to intense rains will prevail until Saturday morning over Bulacan, Pampanga, Tarlac, Nueva Ecija, Aurora, Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino, Benguet, Ifugao, and Isabela

Sea travel is risky for all types of sea craft over the seaboards of areas under wind signals, forecasters warned.

Ambo is expected to be at 115 kilometers west of Calayan, Cagayan by Saturday evening.

By Sunday evening, Ambo is seen 180 kilometers north northeast of Basco, Batanes before leaving the Philippine area of responsibility on Monday.

Risky evacuations

Tens of thousands of people had to be evacuated to shelters because of Ambo as officials struggled to prevent crowding and the spread of the coronavirus disease.

Northern Samar Governor Edwin Ongchuan announced that they have over 10,000 evacuees due to the powerful typhoon.

Sorsogon Governor Chiz Escudero said that nearly 55,000 people were ordered to stay in evacuation centers. He expressed hope they could return to their homes within the day.

As of Thursday, "some families are in evacuation centers, particularly in Arteche, Taft, and San Policarpo," Eastern Samar Governor Ben Evardone said.

Local officials from Northern Samar and Sorsogon admitted the challenge of keeping their residents safe from both COVID-19 and the typhoon. They noted the difficulty of maintaining physical distancing in temporary shelters. But they said they are making the most of available space to prevent the spread of the highly-infectious disease.

“We did order social distancing, but upon checking last night, some were quite close to each other so we had to tell them to maintain distancing and even gave face masks and alcohol,” Ongchuan told CNN Philippines’ New Day.

“We mandated social distancing in evacuation centers by family not by individuals. Otherwise, our evacuation centers would not have survived,” Escudero explained.

Earlier, the Department of Health reminded local government units to allot wider space to ensure social distancing in evacuation centers.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said separately that disaster relief protocols are ready under Oplan Listo, and that evacuation centers have been told to adhere to social distancing on a "per-family basis."

Ambo on Thursday slammed into Eastern Visayas, where it toppled trees and power poles, inundated coastal areas and damaged infrastructure.

More than 15,000 residents in Samar Island were affected by the typhoon, the regional police said in an initial report.

Of this number, 13,158 are from Northern Samar, 2,225 are from Samar and 601 are from Eastern Samar, Police Regional Office 8 reported.

Over 500 houses in Northern Samar towns of Bobon, Laoang, Lope de Vega, and Mondragon have been totally damaged.

Houses in towns of Arteche, San Policarpo, Jipapad, Oras and Dolores in Eastern Samar have been either partially or completely destroyed.

Evardone reported that aside from homes, Ambo also destroyed a church, and crops such as coconut, corn, root crops and rice. The damage to agriculture and infrastructure is comparable to Typhoon Yolanda’s, he added.

“Based on my observation this morning until this afternoon, I think the devastation, in terms of infrastructure and agriculture, I think can be compared to Yolanda," Evardone told CNN Philippines’ News Night.

"The major difference, during Yolanda, some hundreds and thousands people died unlike this one," he also said.

READ: LOOK: Ambo leaves trail of destruction in Eastern Samar

The governor earlier said that the weather disturbance wrecked fishing boats as well as other structures, including the ones in the municipality of Maslog and Barangay Tubabao, Oras.

He added that even the isolation facilities for COVID-19 patients were also destroyed by Ambo.

“Ayun ang malaking problema namin (That's our biggest problem), how we are going to reconstruct," Evardone said. "Ang tanong (The question) is do we still have the funds? The answer is we have no more funds. The LGUs have already used their calamity funds.”

He also said the towns of Jipapad and Maslog are inaccessible due to uprooted trees blocking the roads.

The official showed a picture of shattered covered court in Maslog.

No electricity

Power is currently out in the provinces of Northern Samar and Sorsogon, the governors reported.

But Escudero said the power cut in their province is a “precautionary measure so no one will be electrocuted.” He added he expects it to be restored Friday afternoon.

Communication lines are “on and off” in Northern Samar while they are open in Sorsogon except in some areas, local leaders said.

Evardone also said on Thursday that the whole Eastern Samar province has no electricity. It's not immediately clear if power has been restored in the province as of Friday.