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Typhoon “Karika” with sustained winds of 130km/h has slammed into the northeastern Philippines and left at least two people dead. (Bullit Marquez, AP)
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Manila – Philippine forecasters warned that a super typhoon set to slam into the country’s northeast late on Wednesday may bring widespread damage similar to that wrought by Typhoon Haiyan in 2013 and asked people to flee out of harm’s way.
Typhoon Haima, which was packing sustained winds of 225km/h and gusts of up to 315km/h, was blowing over the Philippine Sea and was expected to hit the coast of northern Cagayan or Isabela province around midnight, according to the forecasters.
The government’s weather agency raised the highest of a five-level storm warning in four northern provinces, which meant that powerful winds could inflict “very heavy to widespread damage” and whip up storm surges of up to five meters, enough to engulf shanties in many rural communities.
“What will they experience? An onslaught, not far from the catastrophe caused by Yolanda,” said government forecaster Aldczar Aurelio, using the local name for Haiyan.
A massive evacuation was underway in northern provinces, especially in landslide-prone towns which often become isolated due to toppled trees and mudslides.
Many of the provinces are still recovering from a powerful typhoon that left at least two people dead and displaced tens of thousands of villagers. The region, however, was spared from a major disaster due in part to the storm’s speed, officials said.
Haima, locally known as Lawin, was hurtling westward at a speed of 25km/h with a vast rain band 800km wide that could bring heavy to intense rain in Luzon, including its central rice-growing plains.
The typhoon is forecast to blow away from the country on Thursday and cross the South China Sea, possibly toward China, where President Rodrigo Duterte is on a state visit ending later this week.
About 20 typhoons and storms lash the Philippines each year, adding to the many burdens in a country that is also threatened by earthquakes and volcanic eruptions and considered one of the world’s most disaster-prone nations.
In November 2013, Typhoon Haiyan struck the central Philippines with ferocious power, leaving more than 7 300 people dead or missing and displacing more than 5 million others after levelling entire villages.
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