MANILA • Philippine authorities cancelled flights and ordered thousands of people living in coastal areas to move to safer ground yesterday as a powerful typhoon approached north-eastern parts of the main island of Luzon.
With winds of up to 175 kmh, Category 4 Typhoon Koppu was about 170km to the north-east of Baler in Aurora province yesterday night, moving west and due to make landfall early today.
Disaster agency officials said a few thousand people living in vulnerable coastal or low-lying areas had already sought shelter due to the risk of floods, landslides and storm surges of up to 2m.
Mr Alexander Pama, executive director of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, said at a news briefing: "We are now forcing the people to evacuate in coastal areas and river banks to minimise the loss of lives."
Mr Pama added that some provincial governments had been ordered to empty coastal and low-lying villages and mountain slopes.
Resident Vir Malabanan told Reuters by telephone from Santiago, Isabela: "Soldiers with bull horns were going around coastal villages, forcing people to flee."
The weather bureau said ferries and fishing boats should seek shelter or stay in port with a risk of the storm generating large sea swells.
AccuWeather, a weather information provider, said Typhoon Koppu could drench large areas of rice-growing Luzon with between 300mm and 600mm of rain.
Airport authorities have grounded 14 domestic flights, while the coast guard has imposed a "no-sail" policy, suspending a search for a missing yacht with four on board in the South China Sea.
Last Friday, President Benigno Aquino appealed on television to people not to panic and to make preparations.
The last time he made a televised appeal was in 2013, the day before Super Typhoon Haiyan struck the central Philippines, killing more than 6,300 people and leaving millions homeless.