Typhoon targets storm-battered Philippines; Thousands evacuate

Bopha expected to make landfall Tuesday morning

 

Emergency crews in the Philippines rushed Monday toward areas under threat from a powerful typhoon, carrying food, medicine and other recovery supplies amid concerns the storm could be significantly stronger than one in 2011 that left more than 1,200 people dead.

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Thousands of residents in low-lying areas streamed out, seeking shelter ahead of the Typhoon Bopha's expected Tuesday morning landfall.

With wind gusts as strong as 210 kph (130 mph), Bopha was expected to make landfall on Mindanao's northeast coast around 8 a.m. Tuesday (7 p.m Monday ET), bringing the threat of devastating flash floods, landslides and flooding.

As of Monday afternoon, the storm's center was about 340 miles (550 kilometers) southeast of Hinatuan, Suriago del Sur, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

Government agencies moved millions of dollars worth of relief supplies into position for quick delivery to storm-hit regions and put emergency crews, the military and hospitals on standby.

Disaster preparedness officials urged residents to heed their call to get out of the path of the storm, saying the storm could destroy homes, uproot trees and knock out power to seven regions on Mindanao.

In the fishing village of Hinatuan, where the storm is expected to make landfall, officials were warning coastal and island residents to evacuate to government shelters in the final hours before the storm hits, CNN affiliate ABS-CBN reported.

"The weather is good right now but we keep advising local governments not to be complacent because this is going to get worse," ABS-CBN quoted regional civil defense director Olive Luces as saying.

The looming threat to Mindanao comes just weeks ahead of the first anniversary of the arrival over the island of Tropical Storm Washi, whose heavy rains set off flash floods in the middle of the night that swept away entire villages.

More than 1,200 people died and hundreds of thousands were left homeless, prompting a humanitarian crisis.

Stormy weather in recent months also has caused death and destruction in other areas of the Philippines, where poor infrastructure leaves many communities highly vulnerable.

Severe flooding in the region of the capital, Manila, killed more than 80 people in August. And Tropical Cyclone Son-Tinh left at least 27 people dead after sweeping across the central Philippines in October.

Palau, a tiny island nation roughly 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) east of Mindanao, had a close shave with Bopha as the typhoon churned past, catching some outlying parts of the archipelago.

"It was headed right toward Palau," said Derek Williams, a meteorologist for the U.S. National Weather Service in Guam. But at the last minute, "it just turned to the west and fortunately went south of them," he said.

"I really think they escaped the brunt of the storm," Williams said in an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, noting that Palau doesn't usually get hit by strong typhoons.

Bopha nonetheless brought down a lot of trees and caused widespread power outages in Palau, according to Williams.

"The fast movement of the system really prevented a lot of flooding," he said. "I think probably only a few inches of rain fell, so that's certainly good news, because Palau itself is susceptible to mudslides."

 


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