Philippines Braces for Floods, Landslides as Typhoon Mawar Slows Down

2023-05-29 05:32:02

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Philippine authorities began evacuating hundreds of people Monday, closing schools and offices and banning shipping as Typhoon Mawar closed in on the country’s northern provinces.

The storm, named Betty in the Philippines, was not expected to make landfall in the mountainous region. But forecasters said the typhoon would slow considerably near the northernmost province, Batanes, between Tuesday and Wednesday and could cause dangerous storm surges, flash floods and landslides.

The storm was moving northwest across the Pacific Ocean about 525 kilometers (326 miles) east of the coastal town of Aparri in Cagayan province, packing maximum sustained winds of 155 kilometers (96 miles) per hour and gusts of up to 190 kilometers (118 miles) per hour.

Mawar hit Guam last week, the strongest typhoon to hit the Pacific US territory in some two decades. The storm flipped over cars, ripped off roofs and caused power outages on the island, before losing steam en route to the Philippines.

“These typhoons, earthquakes and natural calamities have been part of our lives,” Batanes lieutenant governor Ignacio Villa told The Associated Press by phone. “We cannot afford not to prepare because that could mean loss of life and significant damage.”

Emergency officials said military, police, firefighters and volunteers were on duty for possible search-and-rescue operations in the northern provinces, and more than a million food parcels had been prepared for displaced villagers.

By Monday, more than 400 small-town residents had been evacuated to emergency shelters in Cagayan’s exposed coastal towns of Gonzaga and Santa Ana, as well as in nearby provinces before the typhoon struck. Other emergency shelters had been prepared in several northern provinces in anticipation of arrivals of displaced people from flood-prone towns, according to authorities.

Classes and office work were suspended, except for those involved in disaster preparations, in most of the provinces of Cagayan and Batanes, where occasional downpours and gusts were reported Sunday night. Flights to and from those provinces were canceled and fishing and passenger boats were prohibited from sailing in provinces under storm warnings.

Villa said the local government had lent ropes to villages in communities at risk to reinforce their homes.

Some 20 typhoons and storms hit the Philippine archipelago each year, which also sits on seismic fault lines where earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur, making the Southeast Asian nation one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world.

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