700 000 flee as powerful typhoon slams Philippines

2015-12-14 11:26
A local resident collects stones from the Xindian river after Typhoon Dujuan passed in the New Taipei City. (Sam Yeh, AFP)

A local resident collects stones from the Xindian river after Typhoon Dujuan passed in the New Taipei City. (Sam Yeh, AFP)

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Manila - More than 700 000 people in the central Philippines fled to safer areas for fear of giant waves, floods or landslides as Typhoon Melor slammed into the archipelago nation on Monday, officials said.

Melor brushed the northern tip of Samar, a farming island of 1.5 million people, early on Monday with winds gusting up to 185km/h, the state weather bureau said. There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage.

Samar was among areas devastated in 2013 by Typhoon Haiyan, when giant waves wiped out entire communities and left 7 350 people dead or missing.

Authorities warned that Melor's powerful winds had the potential to whip up 4m waves, blow off tin roofs and uproot trees. They said heavy rain within its 300km diameter could trigger floods and landslides.

In Albay province in the southeast of Luzon island, almost 600 000 people were evacuated due to fears that heavy rain could cause mudslides on the slopes of nearby Mayon Volcano, according to the national disaster monitoring office.

Residents carrying bags of clothes and water jugs clambered onto army trucks in Albay's Legazpi City as authorities sounded an evacuation alarm, according to an AFP photographer at the scene.

Huge waves crashed into the city's deserted boulevard as palm trees swayed.

Albay, a province of 1.2 million people, has become a model for disaster preparedness. It recorded zero casualties from Typhoon Hagupit last year due to prompt evacuations.

An additional 130 000 people were evacuated in Sorsogon province south of Albay.

The typhoon is expected to cut across the central heartlands in the early hours of Tuesday before heading out to the South China Sea in the west.

Stormy weather has forced the cancellation of 40 domestic flights and halted 625 passenger and cargo ferry trips, the disaster monitoring agency said.

The government had prepared more than 200 000 food packs and other emergency items before the storm's landfall, social welfare secretary Corazon Soliman told DZMM radio.

The Philippines is battered by an average of 20 typhoons annually.

Typhoon Koppu, the last deadly storm to hit the country, killed 54 people and forced tens of thousands to flee their homes after it pummelled the north in October.

Read more on:    philippines  |  weather

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