Over 700,000 flee as storm hits Philippines

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 Dec 14, 2015, as typhoon Melor approaches the city.
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 Dec 14, 2015, as typhoon Melor approaches the city. PHOTO: AFP

MANILA • More than 700,000 people in the central Philippines fled to safer areas for fear of giant waves, floods or landslides as Typhoon Melor slammed into the archipelago nation yesterday, officials said.

Melor brushed the northern tip of Samar, a farming island of 1.5 million people, early yesterday, with winds gusting up to 185kmh, the state weather bureau said.

There were no immediate reports of casualties. Samar was among areas devastated in 2013 by Typhoon Haiyan, when giant waves wiped out entire communities and left 7,350 people dead or missing.

Reports from the Red Cross chapters affected by Typhoon Melor indicate "minimal impact so far", with some damage to buildings, said Ms Kate Marshall, a spokesman for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in the Philippines.

The authorities warned that Melor's powerful winds might whip up 4m-high waves, blow off tin roofs and uproot trees. They said heavy rain within its 300km diameter could trigger floods and landslides.

In Albay province in the south-east of Luzon island, almost 600,000 people were evacuated because of fears that heavy rain could cause mudslides on the slopes of the nearby Mayon volcano, according to the national disaster monitoring office.

Albay, a province of 1.2 million people, has become a model for disaster preparedness. It recorded zero casualties from Typhoon Hagupit last December owing to prompt evacuations.

An additional 130,000 people were evacuated in Sorsogon province, south of Albay. The typhoon is expected to cut across the central heartland in the early hours today before heading out to the South China Sea in the west.

The storm's outer rain bands could hit the capital Manila, where the second lowest level in a four-step storm warning system may be raised, state weather forecaster Robert Badrina said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 15, 2015, with the headline 'Over 700,000 flee as storm hits Philippines'. Print Edition | Subscribe