Sun, Nov 25, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Manila says Mitag may intensify into super typhoon

AP , MANILA

Typhoon Mitag changed direction yesterday, prompting disaster officials to shift evacuation efforts to the northeastern Philippines, as other areas prepared to be drenched by the powerful storm.

The typhoon's new northerly course appeared to spare the more populous Bicol region in the eastern Philippines, where more than 250,000 people were evacuated. Vietnam also got good news, when another typhoon headed there weakened and was downgraded to a tropical storm.

Typhoon Mitag veered toward the northeastern Philippine provinces of Aurora and Isabela on the main island of Luzon early yesterday, after earlier appearing to be headed for Bicol, chief government forecaster Nathaniel Cruz said.

With sustained winds of 175kph and gusts of 210kph, the typhoon was "almost stationary" about 180km east-northeast of the island province of Catanduanes, he said.

The typhoon could make landfall in the Aurora-Isabela area tomorrow -- a day later than earlier predicted because of its slow movement toward Luzon from the Philippine Sea, Cruz said.

Soldiers, police and border guards in Vietnam helped people return to their homes yesterday after Typhoon Hagibis weakened and changed course, officials said.

Hagibis, which left 13 people dead before leaving the Philippines earlier in the week, was downgraded to a tropical storm late on Friday and headed out to the sea, the national weather forecast center said.

More than 250,000 people have fled or been evacuated to temporary shelters in Albay and four other provinces in Bicol on the southern tip of Luzon, said Glenn Rabonza, administrator of the Office of Civil Defense.

Philippine forecasters have said Mitag could intensify into a "super typhoon" with winds of more than 220kph by the time it makes landfall.

Aurora Governor Bellaflor Angara Castillo appealed to her constituents to cooperate with authorities in the evacuation.

"We must help each other," she said on radio DZRH. "Those whom I have asked to evacuate from the coasts and riverbanks, please do so now. Let us not wait for tomorrow, because that may be too late."

Up to 54,000 people would have to be evacuated from coastal and flood-prone areas in Isabela, Governor Grace Padaca told President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo during a National Disaster Coordinating Council meeting.

Other governors in neighboring provinces reported their disaster plans to Arroyo but gave no immediate figures on the number of people needing emergency shelter.

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