Philippines calls for evacuations as Typhoon Koppu strengthens

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Manila (dpa) – Philippine disaster relief authorities Saturday called for the evacuation of thousands of residents living in coastal areas in northern provinces as a stronger Typhoon Koppu bore down on the country.

More than two dozen domestic flights were cancelled because of heavy rains and strong winds, while sea travel was suspended amid choppy seas.

Koppu gained intensity and slowed down as it approached the northern province of Aurora, where it was expected to make landfall on Sunday morning, the weather bureau said.

It was now packing maximum sustained winds of 175 kilometres per hour (kph) and gusts of up to 210 kph, while moving west at 10 kph.

The typhoon was expected to bring heavy to intense rain within a 650-kilometre diameter and could linger for up to three days over the northern Philippines, the weather bureau warned.

“We have advised local authorities to conduct forced evacuations tonight before the typhoon hits,” said Alexander Pama, chief of the Philippines’ national disaster relief agency.

“We also call on residents in communities that traditionally experience flash floods and landslides to move to safer areas now,” he added. “The situation will be critical overnight as we expect the rain and winds to pick up.”

Pama said coastal communities in the provinces of Aurora, Isabela and Cagayan were also at risk of storm surges, which the weather bureau said could reach up to 3 metres.

The coastal towns of the three provinces have a population of nearly 1 million.

President Benigno Aquino on Friday urged Filipinos in a televised address to not panic and to prepare for floods and other accidents that Koppu could cause.

He assured the public that the government has pre-positioned emergency teams and equipment, relief goods and medical supplies to assist an estimated 7.5 million people that would need help.

The last time Aquino went on national television to issue a storm warning was in 2013 before Typhoon Haiyan devastated a wide area in the central Philippines, killing more than 6,300 people.

Haiyan, which was the strongest typhoon to hit the country, also displaced more than 4 million people after it wiped out entire villages.

The Philippines is hit by an average of 20 cyclones every year, causing floods, landslides and other accidents.

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