Typhoon Noru hits northern Philippines, thousands evacuated

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A powerful typhoon hit the northeastern Philippines on Sunday and swept across the main island of Luzon towards the capital in a densely populated path where thousands of people were evacuated to safety.

Typhoon Noru hit the coastal town of Burdeos on Polillo Island in Quezon Province shortly before nightfall.

With sustained winds of 195 kilometers (121 miles per hour) and gusts of up to 240 km/h (149 mph), it is expected to weaken slightly as it reaches the Sierra Madre mountain range but will remain dangerously fierce, said the forecasters.

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“The typhoon is strong and we live by the sea,” said Marilen Yubatan, who left her shack in Manila with her two young daughters. “If we go down the drain, I don’t know where I’m going to end up with my kids.”

The typhoon gained considerable strength from a storm with sustained winds of 85 km/h (53 mph) on Saturday to a super typhoon just 24 hours later in an “explosive intensification” over the high seas, a said Vicente Malano, who heads the country’s weather agency. The Associated Press.

Thousands of villagers were evacuated – some forcibly – from the typhoon’s path, along with mountainside villages prone to landslides and flash flooding. Coastal communities could be affected by tidal surges of up to 3 meters (about 10 feet) in Quezon Province, including Polillo Island and neighboring Aurora Province.

“The combined effects of storm surges and high waves breaking along the coast can cause life-threatening and damaging flooding or flooding,” the weather agency warned.

In the seaside district of Tondo, Manila, some residents left their homes with bags of their belongings and rushed to a nearby evacuation center as the skies darkened and rains began to fall.

Melchor Avenilla Jr., who heads the Quezon Disaster Response Office, said law enforcement has orders to forcibly move people who refuse to leave their homes. “But so far we’ve been able to do it just by appealing to people,” Avenilla told AP by phone.

Several provinces and cities, including the densely populated capital Manila, suspended classes and government work on Sunday and Monday. The eye of the typhoon could pass about 40 to 50 kilometers (25 to 30 miles) from metro Manila, “which is almost a direct hit,” Malano said.

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Fishing boats and inter-island and cargo ferries were restricted to port as a precaution, the coast guard said, blocking cargo trucks and more than 2,500 passengers. More than 30 flights at Manila airport, mostly to domestic destinations, have been canceled.

The typhoon is expected to sweep across the main island of Luzon overnight and into the South China Sea on Monday. It is on track to hit Vietnam later in the week, while maintaining its strong winds.

About 20 storms and typhoons hit the Philippines every year. The archipelago also lies within the “Pacific Ring of Fire”, a region along much of the circumference of the Pacific Ocean where numerous volcanic eruptions and earthquakes occur, making the nation of Asia Southeast one of the most disaster-prone in the world.

In 2013, Typhoon Haiyan, one of the most powerful tropical cyclones recorded in the world, left more than 7,300 people dead or missing, leveled entire villages, swept ships inland and displaced more than 5 million of people in the central Philippines – well south of Noru’s path.

Associated Press reporters Joeal Calupitan and Aaron Favila contributed to this report.

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