MANILA (Reuters) – Panic-buying of food broke out in the central Philippines on Thursday and schools and government offices were shut, as provinces yet to recover from last year’s devastating super-typhoon Haiyan braced for another category 5 storm.
The government said it was considering declaring a state of national calamity to freeze prices of basic goods and President Benigno Aquino ordered the trade department to send more food supplies to provinces at risk from typhoon Hagupit.
“We want to bring in a lot more supplies to cut down on panic buying,” Aquino said at a meeting of his disaster command at the main military base in Manila shown on live television.
The move followed reports of stores shutting days ahead of the typhoon in order to raise prices of goods later.
“Many stores have closed in Tacloban,” said Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla, referring to the capital of Leyte province in the central Philippines, where he hails from. “I think everybody is panicking at this point.”
Typhoon Hagupit was churning across the Pacific around 720 km (450 miles) southeast of the island nation on Thursday, the local weather bureau said, packing winds of up to 205 kph (130 mph) near the centre with gusts of up to 240 kph.
It was expected to strengthen further before slamming into Eastern Samar province in the central Philippines on Saturday, bringing torrential rain and 3- to 4-metre high storm surges, the weather bureau said.