Fri, Nov 08, 2013 - Page 6 News List

Thousands flee in the Philippines as big typhoon nears

AP, MANILA

Thousands of villagers in the central Philippines, including those from a province devastated by a recent earthquake, were being evacuated yesterday, as one of the most powerful typhoons globally this year approaches.

Typhoon Haiyan was already packing sustained winds of 215kph and ferocious gusts of 250 kph, and could pick up strength over the Pacific Ocean before it slams into the eastern province of Samar today, government forecasters said.

The US Navy’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center in Hawaii said it was the strongest tropical cyclone in the world this year, although Cyclone Phailin, which hit eastern India on Oct. 12, packed winds of up to 222kph and stronger gusts.

Governors and mayors were supervising the evacuation of thousands of residents away from landslide and flood-prone communities in several provinces where the typhoon is expected to pass, said Eduardo del Rosario, head of the government’s main disaster-response agency.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III has ordered officials to aim for zero casualties, a goal often broken in an archipelago lashed by about 20 storms each year, most of them deadly and destructive. Haiyan is the 24th such storm to hit the country this year.

Edgardo Chatto, governor of the island of Bohol, where an earthquake last month killed more than 200 people, said that soldiers, police and rescue units were helping displaced residents, including thousands still in small tents, move to shelters.

The typhoon was not forecast to directly hit Bohol, but the province was still expected to be battered by strong wind and rain, government forecaster Jori Loiz said.

Army troops were helping transport food packs and other relief goods in hard-to-reach communities and rescue helicopters are on stand-by, the military said.

“My worst fear is that the eye of this typhoon will hit us. I hope we will be spared,” Chatto said by telephone.

Haiyan was forecast to barrel through the country’s central region today and tomorrow before it blows toward the South China Sea on Sunday, heading toward Vietnam.

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