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Filipino expats in UAE fear for families back home as typhoon hits

ABU DHABI // As Typhoon Nock-Ten struck the Philippines on Sunday, UAE residents voiced fears for relatives in their home country.

Officials there warned 2.5-metre high waves and landslides posed the biggest threats as typhoon Nock-Ten, known locally as Nina, closed in on the Bicol peninsula and nearby islands.

“It’s Christmas Day and we’re finding it hard to celebrate until we are assured of our family’s safety back home,” said Nikki Beares, 48, a secretary from Nabua, Camarines Sur who has lived in Abu Dhabi for 25 years.

“We’ve been told that it’s now signal number 4, so I’m really worried about the safety of my two sisters, one brother, and all our nephews, nieces and grandchildren in our hometown,” she said.

In the Philippines, signal number 4 means a very intense typhoon is under way, with strong winds of more than 185kph coming within 12 hours’ time.

This category of wind speed may uproot trees and cause severe damage along its path, as well as disruption of power and services.

Typhoon Nock-ten, which packed maximum sustained winds of 185kph and gusts of up to 255kph, made landfall in the island province of Catanduanes at 6.30pm (2.30pm UAE time) but there were no reported damage or casualties as it arrived.

“My sister in Canada, brother in the US and I are in touch with our siblings back home via our group chat,” Ms Beares said. “Our relatives are now preparing for any eventuality. We can only hope and pray that they’re OK.”

Thousands have been moved from areas at risk in the Bicol region amid fears of widespread flooding and possible landslides.

Jethroefel Ramboyong, 43, a telecoms engineer in Abu Dhabi who is from Iriga, Camarines Sur, said although most of his relatives are now based in Manila, he is worried about the safety of his father and other relatives in the province.

“My brother Janus told me about this strong typhoon that’s posing a threat to the Bicol province,” he said. “Every now and then, I’ve been checking the storm signal and have also asked him to update me. Many Filipinos here are anxiously waiting for news from relatives.”

In the past 65 years, seven typhoons have struck the Philippines on Christmas Day, according to the government’s weather agency.

“We are used to typhoons hitting our country but it has disrupted celebrations and dampened the Christmas spirit for families,” he said. “Instead of celebrating Christmas, thousands are now being told to evacuate to get them out of harm’s way.”

Some of the thousands of commuters stranded at dozens of Bicol ports that were closed for the typhoon had to spend the night inside evacuation centres on Friday.

The typhoon was forecast to blow westward across the southern portion of the main Luzon island and pass close to the capital, Manila, on Monday, before exiting into the South China Sea.

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The National