Thousands flee as powerful typhoon threatens the Philippines
Thousands of people in the Philippines fled from their homes today as the strongest typhoon to hit the country this year made landfall, toppling trees and cutting power as it made its way straight towards the capital, Manila.
Parts of the Philippines are still recovering from Typhoon Haiyan, one of the biggest cyclones known to have made landfall anywhere, which killed more than 6,100 people last year, many in tsunami-like sea surges, and left millions homeless.
Typhoon Rammasun, with gusts of up to 160 kph and sustained winds of 130 kph near its centre, hit land over Rapu-Rapu island in the eastern province of Sorsogon, the weather bureau said.
It is expected to cross the main Luzon island at 19 kph, with the eye of the storm likely to be over the capital before noon tomorrow.
"The wind is very strong, we are really being battered," Joey Salceda, governor of coconut- and rice-growing Albay province said in a television interview, adding he expected high economic losses rather than casualties.
The province ordered the evacuation of low-lying and coastal areas, as well as villages at risk of landslides.
Tropical Storm Risk upgraded Rammasun to a category-three typhoon, on a scale of one to five of which five is the most severe. It is expected to bring moderate to intense rainfall of up to 20 mm per hour within its 500-km radius.
It is the strongest storm to threaten the country since Haiyan, a category-five "super typhoon", wiped out nearly everything in its path when it crossed over the central Philippines in November.
Rammasun was expected to bring storm surges of up to three metres in coastal villages, the weather bureau said.
The storm would be the first in about four years to score a direct hit on Manila and storm surges were also likely in Manila Bay.