Typhoon Koppu takes aim at northern Philippines, storm alert issued

Filipino children play at a flood control project at a river in Paranaque city, south of Manila, Philippines.
Filipino children play at a flood control project at a river in Paranaque city, south of Manila, Philippines.PHOTO: EPA

MANILA (REUTERS, AFP) - A typhoon was heading straight for the main Philippine island of Luzon on Friday (Oct 16), prompting storm alerts in nearly 20 provinces and placing army and police units on standby.

With centre winds of 130 kmph, Typhoon Koppu was about 585km east of north-east Aurora province and moving west at 15 kmph.

Tropical Storm Risk forecast it would gain strength overnight.

"We have placed military and emergency workers on alert,"Alexander Pama, executive director of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, said.

In a nationally televised address, President Benigno Aquino urged the estimated six million people in Typhoon Koppu’s direct path to be ready to evacuate, as he stressed the government was making full preparations.

“Your government is here to help us achieve zero casualties,” Mr Aquino said.

Mr Aquino warned of intense rain over a long period of time.

“This typhoon is different because it will have the effect of being stationary,” Mr Aquino warned, adding that forecasters said it could take 12 hours for it to leave the main island of Luzon.

“Because of El Nino, evaporation at sea will be enhanced and cause the typhoon to suck up more water that it will dump on us.”

The state weather service also warned of storm surges of up to 1.2 metres in some coastal areas.

Mr Aquino said heavy equipment, relief goods and rescuers had been pre-positioned in those areas to ensure roads were cleared to get help to them if needed.

“We have assets at the ready... to respond to any eventuality. However, we are dealing with nature so we don’t really know what will happen.”

While storm alerts had been placed over most of Luzon, home to about 50 million people including in the capital of Manila, no evacuations had yet been announced on Friday.

The last time Mr Aquino 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.

An average of 20 typhoons hit the Philippines every year.