Powerful Typhoon Melor slams Philippines, major disruptions

More than 700,000 people in the central Philippines fled to safer areas for fear of giant waves, floods or landslides as Typhoon Melor slammed into the archipelago nation.
Channel NewsAsia 15 Dec 15;

MANILA: More than 700,000 people in the central Philippines fled to safer areas for fear of giant waves, floods or landslides as Typhoon Melor slammed into the archipelago nation Monday, officials said.

Melor crossed the central Burias Island late Monday, with authorities warning that traditional thatched homes were unlikely to withstand the strong winds and that crops may suffer heavy losses. There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage.

The typhoon brushed the northern tip of Samar, a farming island of 1.5 million people, early Monday with winds gusting up to 185 kilometres (115 miles) per hour, the state weather bureau said.

Samar was among areas devastated in 2013 by Typhoon Haiyan, when giant waves wiped out entire communities and left 7,350 people dead or missing.

Authorities warned that Melor's powerful winds might whip up four-metre-high (13-feet) waves, blow off tin roofs and uproot trees. They said heavy rain within its 300-kilometre diameter could trigger floods and landslides.

In Albay province in the southeast of Luzon island, almost 600,000 people were evacuated due to fears that heavy rain could cause mudslides on the slopes of nearby Mayon Volcano, according to the national disaster monitoring office.

Residents carrying bags of clothes and water jugs clambered onto army trucks in Albay's Legazpi City as authorities sounded an evacuation alarm, according to an AFP photographer at the scene.

Huge waves crashed into the city's deserted boulevard as palm trees swayed from the wind.

"The whole province is now a ghost town. We shut all establishments. No school, no work," Albay governor Joey Salceda said on ABS-CBN television.

PROMPT EVACUATIONS

Albay, a province of 1.2 million people, has become a model for disaster preparedness. It recorded zero casualties from Typhoon Hagupit last December due to prompt evacuations.

An additional 130,000 people were evacuated in Sorsogon province south of Albay.

The typhoon had moved over the Sibuyan Sea by late Monday and was next expected to hit Mindoro Island Tuesday afternoon, bringing with it winds of up to 170 kilometres per hour.

The storm's outer rain bands could hit the capital Manila, state weather forecaster Robert Badrina told AFP, but the risk of severe wind damage or flooding was unlikely.

Stormy weather has forced the cancellation of 40 domestic flights and halted 625 passenger and cargo ferry trips, the disaster monitoring agency said.

The government had prepared more than 200,000 food packs and other emergency items before the storm's landfall, social welfare secretary Corazon Soliman told DZMM radio.

The Philippines is battered by an average of 20 typhoons annually. Two of these usually hit in December, Badrina said, and are often among the strongest.

Last year Typhoon Hagupit brought floods and landslides to the central region, killing 53 people.

A low-pressure area, which could either strengthen into a typhoon or dissipate because of cold winds blowing from the north, was spotted east of the main southern island of Mindanao, Badrina said.

The weather bureau is studying the link between the increasing strength of year-end storms and climate change, he said.

Typhoon Koppu, the last deadly storm to hit the country this year, killed 54 people and forced tens of thousands to flee their homes after it pummelled the north in October.

- AFP/jb


Central Philippines in darkness as typhoon Melor hits
Wide areas of the central Philippines were plunged into darkness on Tuesday as powerful typhoon Melor barrelled into the coconut-growing region, causing flooding, storm surges and forcing almost 800,000 people to evacuate their homes, officials said.
Channel NewsAsia 15 Dec 15;

MANILA: Wide areas of the central Philippines were plunged into darkness on Tuesday as powerful typhoon Melor barrelled into the coconut-growing region, causing flooding, storm surges and forcing almost 800,000 people to evacuate their homes, officials said.

Known locally as Nona, the storm packing winds of 140 kph (87 mph) was about 40 km (25 mile) north-northeast of Romblon island early on Tuesday, moving west and weakening.

"Melor will continue to weaken as it crosses the central Philippines into Tuesday," weather provider Accuweather said. "However, damaging wind gusts higher than 130 kph will target the rest of southern Luzon to Mindoro."

Romblon residents reported heavy rain and strong winds from midnight. Power was cut as transmission lines and electric posts came down.

Alexander Pama, executive director of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, said nearly 800,000 people had been evacuated to shelter areas.

"So far, we have not received any report of typhoon-related casualties," he said.

Media reported that three people had been killed on Samar island, where Melor first made landfall on Monday, although this could not immediately be confirmed.

Power services in six central provinces were disrupted and emergency teams were assessing damage to agriculture and infrastructure, Pama said.

Schools and some offices were closed. Dozens of domestic flights and ferry services were cancelled, and the fishing fleet took shelter due to waves as high as 14 metres (46 ft).

Another potential tropical system will hit the southern Philippines later this week, Accuweather said.

An average of 20 typhoons pass through the country every year. In 2013, typhoon Haiyan struck the central Philippines, killing more than 6,300 people and leaving 1.4 million homeless.

(Reporting by Manuel Mogato and Jerome Neil Morales; Editing by Stephen Coates)

- Reuters

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