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Villages evacuated as Typhoon Noul hits Philippines

More than 2,000 people have left their homes to escape a powerful storm expected to slam into the northeastern Philippines in the coming hours. Authorities have warned of flash flooding, storm surges and landslides.

Typhoon Noul was upgraded to a category five storm as it neared the northeastern Philippines coast on Sunday, prompting a number of villages to be evacuated.

The typhoon was packing winds of 185 kilometers (115 miles) per hour, and gusts of 220 kilometers (136 miles) per hour, as it approached Cagayan province.

"We strongly advise pre-emptive evacuation while we still have time," Alexander Pama, head of the national disaster agency, told reporters at a briefing.

"Even as we speak, our armed forces are already moving... to help in the evacuation. So too are our police forces who are conducting evacuations in their municipalities."

Escape to higher ground

The weather bureau warned the typhoon could trigger landslides, flash flooding, heavy rainfall and tsunami-like storm surges, especially around the town of Santa Ana in the Cagayan Valley, some 400 kilometers north of the capital Manila.

Authorities in the northern provinces are on standby, ready to transport people to higher ground and carry out relief or rescue operations. Regional civil defense chief, Norma Talosig, said more than 2,000 people from Cagayan's coastal villages had been told to leave.

"They have to evacuate to higher ground, not in their village. They are being assisted by the local governments using buses and trucks, even ambulances," she told news agency AFP.

Several domestic flights have been canceled. The coast guard has also suspended ferry services in affected areas, stranding around 5,000 passengers.

An average of 20 typhoons hit the Philippines each year. Typhoon Haiyan was

one of the strongest ever to make landfall

. The category five storm struck the central Philippines in November 2013, bringing five meter-high storm surges and leaving more than 7,300 people dead or missing.

nm/jr (Reuters, AP, AFP)

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