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Thousands flee as typhoon smashes into Philippines
by Staff Writers
Manila (AFP) Oct 16, 2016

One dead as Philippines faces 'most damaging typhoon'
Manila (AFP) Oct 15, 2016 - At least one person was killed and three were missing as the Philippines faces what could be "the most damaging" storm this year in the approaching Typhoon Sarika, officials said Saturday.

A man was found dead on the seashore while three fishermen were reported missing in the eastern island of Catanduanes as Sarika, packing maximum winds of 180 kilometres (112 miles) per hour, passed nearby, the civil defence office said.

Although the storm did not hit the island directly, its strong winds and heavy rains still knocked out all power and telephone lines for the more than 246,000 residents of Catanduanes, the office added.

While the typhoon is not the most powerful to hit the country this year, it could cause the most damage as it will cross heavily-populated areas just north of Manila, said government weather forecaster Benison Estareja.

"We can see from the radar that the storm is very destructive. It can destroy wooden houses, it can topple trees. It can possibly rip off roofs," he told AFP.

"This could so far, be the most damaging typhoon this year," Estareja said.

Sarika is forecast to hit the province of Aurora on the east coast of the main island of Luzon before dawn Sunday, he said.

It is expected to cross central Luzon before heading out to sea by Sunday evening, he added.

"This one will have an impact because most of the people are in (that part of) Luzon. Even Metropolitan Manila will be affected," he warned.

These areas will experience strong winds and heavy rains, with coastal areas at risk of storm surges of up to two metres (more than six feet), the forecaster said.

Low-lying areas will be at risk of flooding while mountainous areas could suffer landslides.

Although the storm did not hit the eastern region of Bicol, that area experienced heavy rains as it passed nearby on Saturday, said civil defence spokeswoman Rachel Miranda.

More than 400 people were evacuated from their homes and sea and air travel in these areas has been suspended as a safety precaution, officials said.

The Philippine islands are often the first major landmass to be hit by storms that generate over the Pacific Ocean. The Southeast Asian archipelago endures about 20 major storms each year, many of them deadly.

Haiyan, the strongest typhoon ever recorded to hit land, smashed into the central Philippines on November 8, 2013, leaving 7,350 people dead or missing.

Typhoon Sarika smashed into the main Philippine island of Luzon early Sunday, ripping off roofs, toppling power lines and forcing more than 12,000 people to flee to safer ground, officials said.

Minor landslides and flooding were also reported a day after the cyclone brushed past a remote island and left one person drowned and three others missing, they said.

"The roofs of some house were blown away and power was cut in some areas," Mina Marasigan, spokeswoman for the government's National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, told AFP.

"Minor landslides were also reported as well as floods. We're waiting for the typhoon to blow over to conduct a fuller assessment," Marasigan added.

Sarika was progressively weakening since making landfall on the east coast town of Baler before dawn Sunday (1830 GMT Saturday) packing winds of 130 kilometres an hour (81 mph), weather forecasters said.

It later raked across mainly mountainous and sparsely populated areas in the morning, and was expected to roar out to the South China Sea in the afternoon.

Marasigan's disaster agency said nearly 12,500 people left their homes in the typhoon's path, seeking refuge in government-run shelters and relatives' homes.

Eleven people were rescued after a boat capsized off the eastern island of Samar on Friday, while about 1,000 boats and 6,500 passengers were stranded at ports as the coast guard barred smaller vessels from putting to sea.

The disaster agency said 290 commercial flights, including 63 to international destinations, were cancelled due to bad weather.

Marasigan also said 23 mountain climbers were rescued in the northern Philippines.

The Philippine islands are often the first major landmass to be hit by storms that generate over the Pacific Ocean. The Southeast Asian archipelago endures about 20 major storms each year, many of them deadly.

Haiyan, the strongest typhoon ever recorded to hit land, smashed into the central Philippines on November 8, 2013, leaving 7,350 people dead or missing.

Bermuda gears up for restoration efforts as Hurricane Nicole moves on
Miami (AFP) Oct 14, 2016 - A weakening hurricane Nicole began moving away from Bermuda after slamming into the tiny British archipelago Thursday, though wind gusts of tropical storm force were still possible, the National Hurricane Center said.

"Weakening is forecast during the next couple of days, but Nicole is expected to remain at hurricane intensity even though it could become a post-tropical cyclone on Saturday," the Miami-based center said in its latest public advisory.

Nicole was moving toward the northeast at 21 miles (33 kilometers) per hour with maximum sustained winds near 110 miles per hour.

The NHC had classified the hurricane as an "extremely dangerous" Category Three storm when it hit, just two notches shy of top intensity level on the Saffir-Simpson scale.

"It's been a long day," Premier Michael Dunkley told local media, though he said the worst had passed without causing any deaths or serious injuries.

"I'm certainly proud... to be able to work with so many people who stand the test of time and meet a real challenge," the premier said, before asking islanders to stay off the roads to ease clean-up efforts.

The country's power authority, Belco, said that by Thursday evening power was restored to more than 11,000 customers, though some 16,000 were still without electricity.

- 'Resilient population' -

Before the storm roared in National Security Minister Jeffrey Baron expressed confidence that Bermudians were ready.

"Bermuda has a very long history of navigating through serious storms and hurricanes. We are a very resilient population and when we are faced with a serious storm, Bermudians band together in the face of adversity. We are very proud of that," he told AFP.

Authorities in Bermuda closed schools and government offices on Wednesday. Buildings were boarded up as heavy wind and rain hit the islands, and airlines had canceled flights. Rain and powerful gusts began hitting early Thursday.

High-profile Bermudians overseas were watching nervously.

"Sending prayers to my island @Bermuda," tweeted Shiona Turini, recently profiled by the New York Times as stylist to singer Solange Knowles. "Hurricane Nicole may be a category 4 but we're tiny and strong."

"Stay safe everyone!" tweeted world champion triathlete Flora Duffy.

The NHC said water levels would likely subside by Thursday evening but swells would affect Bermuda and spread northward up the US east coast, creating "dangerous surf conditions and rip currents."

Last week, Hurricane Matthew, caused massive devastation in Haiti and other Caribbean countries before sweeping up the US southeast coast.

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