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Evacuations as typhoon nears Philippines
by Staff Writers
Manila (AFP) Sept 26, 2011

Philippine authorities on Monday evacuated more than 100,000 people, closed schools and grounded flights as one of the biggest typhoons of the year bore down on the Southeast Asian country.

Typhoon Nesat was set to make landfall Tuesday morning along the vulnerable eastern edge of the Philippines' main Luzon island, then dump heavy rains hundreds of kilometres (miles) inland to areas including the capital Manila.

"We expect hazards such as landslides, flash floods, strong winds and storm surges," senior state weather forecaster Robert Sawi told reporters.

He said storm alert warnings had been hoisted over most of Luzon, home to more than 48 million people, or more than half the Philippines' population.

An average of 20 storms and typhoons batter the Philippines each year.

However Nesat is expected to be the largest typhoon to hit the country this year with a diameter twice that of other storms, said civil defence chief Benito Ramos.

The weather bureau warned that Nesat, already packing winds of 120 kilometres (75 miles) an hour near its centre and gusts of up to 150 kilometres an hour, would continue to build in strength while at sea.

"There is a possibility it will get stronger because its strength emanates from the sea and if it picks up more power, it could be like a category-four hurricane," Ramos said.

Nesat was expected to unload up to 25 millimetres (one inch) of rain an hour with a radius of 650 kilometres (400 miles), according to the bureau.

Ramos said 41 fishermen who went missing after setting sail in bad weather in the eastern provinces were all rescued by the coast guard or by other vessels.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said 111,930 residents from five towns that were highly prone to landslides and floods in the eastern province of Albay had already been ordered to move to safer ground.

"We have been preparing since last week. We have cancelled all classes and asked people not to go to work," Albay Governor Joey Salceda said over DZBB radio in Manila.

"The rain has not stopped since last night, and this afternoon it was very strong."

He said some low-lying areas were submerged and remained impassable to vehicles.

At least 41 domestic flights were cancelled Monday, while the coast guard barred all inter-island ferries from leaving port, stranding hundreds of passengers.

Schools in Manila and affected provinces were suspended in preparation for the storm, disaster relief officials said.

Nesat's rains would also affect the southern island of Mindanao, where a major river system overflowed its banks due to heavy rains that began last week, killing two and displacing more than 11,000 families, the weather bureau said.

Super typhoon Nanmadol killed 35 in August, while at least 70 others were killed by storms Nock-ten and Muifa in July.

Exactly two years ago, tropical storm Ketsana left 464 people dead after flooding more than 80 percent of Manila.

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