ibnlive » World

Oct 18, 2010 at 12:23pm IST

Strongest typhoon in years hits Philippines coast

Luzon: The strongest typhoon to menace the Philippines in recent years hit the northeastern coast on Monday as thousands of villagers fled to safety amid massive emergency preparations.

Local weather forecaster Robert Sawi said the eye of the typhoon made landfall at midday on Monday at Palanan Bay in Isabela province.

As it crosses the main northern island of Luzon, Sawi warned of possible floods and landslides, particularly in the Cordillera mountains.

Strongest typhoon in years hits Philippines coast

The strongest typhoon to menace the Philippines in recent years hit the northeastern coast on Monday.

More than 3,000 people in coastal areas moved to school buildings and town halls that were turned into evacuation centres.

Classes and outdoor activities were cancelled, and officials advised families to have one person stay awake overnight for any contingency.

Ships and fishing vessels were told to stay in ports, and several domestic flights also were cancelled.

Thousands of military reserve officers and volunteers were on standby, along with helicopters, including six Chinooks sent by US troops holding war exercises with Filipino soldiers near Manila, said Benito Ramos, a top disaster-response official.

Rescue boats and thousands of food packets have been pre-positioned near vulnerable areas, he said.

Millions of residents and rice farmers along the typhoon's path were warned of pounding rains and fierce wind that could significantly damage farms, crops, homes, power and communications.

The storm packed sustained winds of 140 miles (225 kilometres) per hour and gusts of 162 mph (260 kph), but could strengthen still before making landfall in the Philippines' Isabela province midday on Monday.

Megi was expected to move on later on Monday towards southern China, which already has evacuated more than 100,000 people from villages because of earlier flooding, according to the China Meteorological Administration.

With its ferocious wind and heavy rainfall, Megi has become the most powerful typhoon to threaten the Philippines in four years, government forecasters say.

Philippine weather officials issued the highest of a four-tier public storm alert for the two coastal provinces of Isabela and Cagayan and three mountain provinces where the typhoon is expected to pass before exiting the main northern island of Luzon into the South China Sea.