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Filipinos flee as typhoon roars in eastern coast

By Agence France-Presse in Manila | China Daily | Updated: 2014-07-16 06:57

Tens of thousands of people in the Philippines took shelter in evacuation centers on Tuesday as a typhoon began pounding the country's eastern coast and authorities warned of giant storm surges and heavy floods.

The eye of Typhoon Rammasun was poised to strike Legazpi city in the eastern Bicol region in the early evening, with Manila and other heavily populated areas also expected to be hit early on Wednesday, the state weather service said.

"We are preparing for the worst," said Rafaelito Alejandro, civil defense chief of Bicol, an impoverished farming and fishing region of 5.4 million people.

More than 96,000 families have already moved to evacuation centers there, Social Welfare Minister Corazon Soliman said in Manila.

The Philippines is hit by about 20 major storms a year, many of them deadly. The Southeast Asian archipelago is often the first major landmass to be hit after storms build above warm Pacific Ocean waters.

Super Typhoon Haiyan unleashed 7-meter storm surges that devastated the coasts of the eastern islands of Samar and Leyte last year, killing up to 7,300 people in one of the nation's worst natural disasters.

'Terrified of storm'

More than a thousand residents of Tacloban, a city on Leyte, fled to an indoor government stadium early on Tuesday after the weather service warned of the threat of 3-meter waves hitting the coast.

"We're terrified of storm surges," a mother of three, Mary Ann Avelino, 26, said as her family sat on cold concrete bleacher seats, watching puddles of water form on the floor from the leaky roof.

She said her family had temporarily abandoned a lean-to at the ruins of their coastal home to sit out the new typhoon on higher ground.

Heavy rains and strong winds pounded the Bicol coasts in the late afternoon, though there were no reports of casualties or damage, Joey Salceda, the governor of Albay province in Bicol, said on ABS-CBN television.

Rammasun is the first to make landfall since this year's rainy season began in June, and authorities and local media sought to ensure that all potentially affected communities were well informed and prepared.

Rammasun, which is Thai for "God of Thunder", is expected to bring wind gusts of up to 180 km/h when it makes landfall, according to the US military's Joint Typhoon Warning Center.

The government cancelled most classes in Manila and Bicol on Tuesday, while dozens of domestic flights were also grounded.


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