Officials in the Philippines are preparing for evacuations as Typhoon Nina approaches the northern part of the country. The storm is expected to make landfall on Christmas Day.
Typhoon Nina, or Nock-Ten as it is known locally, is currently over the Pacific Ocean. It is gaining strength as it moves west toward the Philippines. It is expected to make a Christmas Day landing on the Catanduanes, a remote island of 250,000 inhabitants.
The storm has been dubbed a super typhoon by the US military's Joint Typhoon Warning center. It is currently packing sustained winds of up to 240 kmh (150 mph), but it is expected to weaken before making landfall later on Sunday, and to weaken further as it crosses over land.
The storm, which is the equivelant of a Category 2 hurricane in the Atlantic, is about 280 kilometers (175 miles) east of the Philippine city of Virac. It is traveling west-northwest at about 13 kph (8mph)
Mina Marasigan, a spokesperson for the country's national disaster agency, said preemptive evacuation orders were in place for certain areas at risk due to the approaching storm and that families "have started fleeing to safer and higher grounds." Overall, land, sea, and air travel has been suspended across nine provinces.
Cedric Daep, civil defence chief for the province of Albay, said at least 400,000 people in that area alone needed to be evacuated.
"Our evacuation centers will not be able to accommodate all of them," he said. Others were being asked to stay with relatives or friends. "We are requesting vehicle support" from other government agencies to move people to safety, Daep added.
The typhoon is expected to hit the country's main island of Luzon, including the capital Manila, on Monday.
"The preemptive evacuation is ongoing" in Catanduanes and two nearby provinces, Rachel Miranda, spokeswoman for the civil defence office in the Bicol region said.
Many holiday travelers are stranded due to the cancelation of ferries.
"It's sad that I could not join my parents for Christmas," said technician Reagan Sumukit, as the coastguard shut down the port of Tabaco.
The 27-year-old was stranded at a tiny terminal that was crammed with bags and other luggage from 500 other stranded ferry passengers.
The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) issued a warning on Saturday saying that the storm is gathering strength as it moves toward land. PAGASA advised that sea travel is currently risky on the seaboards of Luzon and Visayas.
Cyclone warnings have been triggered across the region, with wave heights of up to four meters (13 feet) reported.
In 2013, Typhoon Haiyan - one of the strongest ever recorded to make landfall - struck the Philippines and killed over 6,000 people. Over four million people were impacted by the devastating storm.
mz/rc (AFP, Reuters)