Thousands flee Christmas Day typhoon in Philippines

Thousands flee Christmas Day typhoon in Philippines

DARAGA, Philippines
Thousands flee Christmas Day typhoon in Philippines Thousands of residents were loaded onto military trucks in the Philippines on Dec. 25 as they fled from the path of a powerful typhoon barreling towards the disaster-prone archipelago.  

Officials warned that storm surges up to 2.5-metres (eight-feet) high, landslides and flash floods posed the biggest threats as Nock-Ten closed in on the Bicol peninsula and nearby islands, AFP reported. 

The typhoon threat, on one of the biggest holidays in the mainly Christian nation, triggered preemptive evacuations that officials said could involve hundreds of thousands of people.

“We went around with megaphones and gave instructions to our people to eat breakfast, pack and board the military trucks,” Alberto Lindo, an official of Alcala, a farming village of 3,300 people near the active Mayon volcano, told AFP.

About 100 babies, toddlers, parents and elderly people were the first to be trucked off to a school some seven kilometers (four miles) away as strong winds began to shake trees at midday, scattering leaves on the pavement.

“There are large ash deposits on the slopes [of Mayon]. Heavy rain can dislodge them and bury our homes in mud,” Lindo added.

Philippine and international weather services said Nock-Ten, named after a bird found in Laos, was set to hit Bicol on the south of the main island of Luzon on the evening of Dec. 25.

The U.S. Joint Typhoon Warning Center has forecast sustained winds of 231 kilometers (144 miles) an hour and gusts of 278 km when Nock-Ten makes landfall on the now-isolated island of Catanduanes, home to 250,000 people.

The typhoon will eventually affect an area of nearly 42 million people, including the capital Manila which was forecast to be hit on Dec. 26.

Civil defense officials in Bicol said earlier nearly half a million people in the region were in harm’s way and needed to be evacuated.

The government called for preemptive evacuations in the area on Dec. 24, with nearly 4,000 residents moving into emergency centers and more than 8,000 others seeking shelter elsewhere, an official tally said.

Evacuations were continuing on Christmas Day as the military and local governments sent trucks to evacuate coastal communities and other areas hit by landslides or flash floods in previous storms.