Typhoon threatens central Philippines; 750,000 evacuated

Disaster authorities have temporarily closed schools and evacuated people in three provinces.

A resident walks past big waves spilling over a wall onto a coastal road in the city of Legaspi in Albay province, south of Manila on December 14, 2015, as typhoon Melor approaches the city. Picture: AFP /Charism Sayat.

MANILA - Hundreds of thousands of people were evacuated from the central Philippines on Monday as a typhoon with winds of up to 150 kph made landfall, dumping heavy rain that could cause flooding, landslides and storm surges, authorities warned.

About 40 domestic flights were grounded, while 73 ferries and hundreds of fishing boats were ordered to remain in port as typhoon Melor hit the village of Batag on the northern tip of Samar Island.

Known locally as typhoon Nona, it was expected to roll across nearby islands before making landfall later on Monday close to Sorsogon, about 385 km southeast of the capital, Manila, on the heavily populated main island of Luzon.

Melor was plotting a similar path to Haiyan, a category 5 typhoon that struck the central Philippines in 2013. Almost 8,000 people were killed or left missing by Haiyan.

Disaster authorities have temporarily closed schools and some offices and evacuated about 750,000 people in three provinces. About 8,000 people were stranded after the coast guard stopped ferries and fishing boats from leaving ports in the central Philippines.

"Melor is a very compact typhoon, so that will prevent its most devastating impacts from extending too far from its center," said AccuWeather meteorologist Adam Douty.

He said the typhoon had weakened a little as it encountered drier air early on Monday. "While Melor will not slam onshore as a super typhoon as once feared, it still poses dangers to lives and property," Douty said.

Alexander Pama, executive director of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, said typhoon Melor was expected to cause flooding, landslides and storm surges of up to four metres and disrupt power and communications.

About 20 provinces, some around Manila, are under public storm alert due to strong winds and torrential rains of up to 300 mm within a 300 km radius.

About 20 major typhoons pass through the Philippines each year.