MANILA - The Philippines is bracing for a typhoon heading for the north of the main island of Luzon, the same region badly damaged by a deadly storm just weeks earlier.
Typhoon Yutu, which tore across the US Northern Mariana islands last week, was set to make landfall on Tuesday morning (Oct 30) somewhere in the provinces of Isabela, Aurora or Cagayan, and move slowly across northern Luzon.
Super typhoon Mangkhut, a maximum category 5 storm, tore northern Luzon six weeks ago, triggering rivers of mud that inundated mountain homes and killed over 100 people. It destroyed crops worth more than 9.65 billion pesos (S$250 million).
The state weather agency raised tropical cyclone warnings levels across Luzon as Yutu nears, and put a mountainous region on high alert for possible landslides.
Emergency workers also began evacuating inhabitants of landslide-prone mountain areas and coastal towns in six provinces, as weather officials warned of 2m to 3m high storm surges.
Airlines cancelled at least a dozen flights between Manila and northern Luzon.
"We are not taking any chances," Mr Edgar Posadas, director at the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, told reporters.
He said Yutu could affect up to 12 million people in 290 cities and towns.
On Monday afternoon, the typhoon was about 300 km east of Luzon, home to about 53 million people, and had weakened to a Category 2 storm with sustained wind speeds of 150 kilometres per hour, with gusts of 185kmh, from 170kmh recorded a few hours earlier.
That was less intense than four days ago when, as a super typhoon with wind speeds of over 270kmh, it barrelled through the Marianas, a United States Western Pacific archipelago of 52,000 people, tearing off roofs, overturning vehicles, and cutting off power and water.
But weather officials warned that Yutu, known locally as Rosita, would still bring heavy rains approximating the volume dumped by typhoon Ketsana in 2009, which inundated large parts of metropolitan Manila.
Ketsana had winds of just 130kmh, but it triggered floods that caused 59 billion pesos worth of damages and left 747 dead.
Five provinces in Luzon were elevated to warning signal 3 on the severity scale of 5, and 27 more put on the earliest warnings of 1 and 2, including Manila.
School classes were suspended in at least five provinces, and fishermen in Luzon and the eastern seaboard have been advised not to go to sea.
All boat services in the port city of Batangas, about 83km south of Manila, were suspended on Monday.
Yutu will be the 18th storm to hit the Philippines this year, striking as millions of Filipinos prepare to mark a two-day holiday to remember their dead.
The country is hit by an average of 20 typhoons each year.
Weather officials said it was likely two more typhoons could cut across the Philippines before the year ends.