Philippines authorities raced to evacuate up to 1 million people yesterday as Typhoon Mitag bore down on eastern areas devastated by storms last year.
Flatbed trucks, police-chartered vans and even rubbish trucks were pressed in to service as thousands of men, women and children were moved from vulnerable areas.
The Bicol peninsula bore the brunt of Super Typhoon Durian last year which killed 1,200 people and left 200,000 homeless.
Entire villages were obliterated and hundreds were swept to their deaths in mudslides triggered by Durian, which blew away houses and uprooted trees as it slammed into the Bicol provinces.
Philippines President Gloria Arroyo, who cut short an official visit to Singapore to deal with the latest typhoon, has told officials she did not want a repeat of last year's disaster and ordered pre-emptive evacuations.
She met yesterday with civil defense officials who briefed her about the movement of the typhoon and the status of the evacuation efforts.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer said up to 1 million people were being evacuated from Bicol including more than 600,000 people from Albay Province.
Civil defense officials said more than 50,000 people had already been evacuated in Bicol, which covers a long strip of land on the southern end of Luzon.
The civil defense office said preparations were taking place along the entire east coast of Luzon because the storm was changing direction, making it difficult to tell exactly where it would make landfall.
More than 2,000 people have already been evacuated in the eastern island of Catanduanes, which is expected to feel the force of the typhoon late today.
Chief forecaster Nathaniel Cruz said Mitag, packing maximum winds of 175kph and gusts of 210kph, would likely get stronger as it moves closer to the country. He warned that it could become a super typhoon.
Cruz said Mitag would either move west-southwest towards Bicol or toward central and northern Luzon, making landfall tomorrow morning.
"The rain path [of the typhoon] is so huge it affects three-fourths of the country so even if you are not hit by the typhoon, you are going to experience heavy rains," deputy civil defense chief Anthony Golez said.
The Central Weather Bureau (CWB) said yesterday that Mitag could cause heavy rain for eastern and northern Taiwan next week.
Mitag was one of two typhoons that have become medium-strength typhoons east of the Philippines,senior forecaster Chang Yu-hsien (
Their close proximity has affected their paths, a situation known as the Fujiwhara Effect, he said.
"While we do not see indications that Hagibis will impact Taiwan yet, Mitag is traveling west northwest at 9 kilometers an hour so its outer ring current may affect Taiwan and bring heavy rain starting Sunday," Chang said. "Heavy rain may persist and increase in volume early next week."
Additional reporting by Meggie Lu