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Massive typhoon hits Philippines

Tuesday 15 December 2015 | Published in Regional


Massive typhoon hits Philippines
Meteorologists from the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration monitor the direction of powerful Typhoon Melor at their headquarters in Manila. AFP

MANILA – A massive typhoon has made landfall in the Philippines, forcing 750,000 people to evacuate and bringing wild winds and rain that could cause flash-flooding, landslides and storm surges.

About 40 domestic flights were grounded, while 73 ferries and hundreds of fishing boats were ordered to remain in port as Typhoon Melor hit the northern tip of Samar, a farming island, with winds of up to 185 kilometres per hour.

Samar was among areas devastated in 2013 by Typhoon Haiyan, which left almost 8000 dead or missing as it stirred up tsunami-like waves, wiping out entire towns.

Melor later crossed the central Burias Island, with authorities warning traditional thatched homes were unlikely to withstand the strong winds and that crops may suffer heavy losses.

There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage, but videos posted on social media showed strong winds uprooting trees and shaking houses.

Melor, known locally as Typhoon Nona, was expected to roll across nearby islands before striking the mainland close to Sorsogon, a province south-east of Manila on the heavily populated island of Luzon.

Disaster authorities have temporarily closed schools and some offices and evacuated about 750,000 people in three provinces.

In Albay province in the south-east 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.

An additional 130,000 people were evacuated in Sorsogon.

Aid agencies have prepared post-disaster assistance kits and put their response teams on standby as they monitor the impact.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said Melor was expected to cause flooding, landslides and storm surges of up to four metres and disrupt power and communications.

About 20 provinces, including around the capital, Manila, are under public storm alert due to strong winds and torrential rains of up to 300 millimetres within a 300-kilometre radius.

“Melor is a very compact typhoon, so that will prevent its most devastating impacts from extending too far from its centre,” said meteorologist Adam Douty, from AccuWeather.

He said the typhoon weakened a little after encountering drier air early on Monday.

“While Melor will not slam onshore as a super typhoon as once feared, it still poses dangers to lives and property,” Mr Douty said.

Typhoon Melor, the 14th storm to hit the Philippines this year, is forecast to move north-west and exit through the West Philippines Sea by midweek.