A powerful typhoon barrelled towards the Philippines Monday, prompting authorities to order the immediate evacuation of thousands of people from coastal and low-lying areas, officials said.
Typhoon Bopha, packing winds of up to 210 kilometres (130 miles) an hour, is expected to hit a southern fishing village overnight, making it the strongest typhoon to slam the Philippines this year.
The mayor of Hinatuan has urged the village of 39,000 people to prepare for the worst, ordering those living along the coast, flood-prone river valleys, as well as tiny islands off the village to move to government shelters.
“There is no rain yet but they might start experiencing rain tonight. This will be the strongest typhoon this year,” warned Edgardo Ollet, director of the civil defence office in Manila.
The weather service said Bopha was expected to bring “intense to heavy rainfall” over Hinatuan and surrounding areas as well as the central Philippine islands.
As of 0200 GMT, the centre of the typhoon was 550 kilometres southeast of Hinatuan, it added.
Authorities have been stockpiling food supplies and rescue equipment, with military and coast guard personnel deployed in vulnerable areas amid fears the typhoon could trigger landslides and floods.
But Ollet said he was not sure whether residents were complying with the evacuation orders. Olive Luces, the regional civil defence director, warned local officials to not take the typhoon lightly.
“The weather is good right now but we keep advising local governments not to be complacent because this is going to get worse,” she said.
The Philippines is battered by about 20 typhoons a year, some of them destructive. Bopha is the 16th so far this year.
In August, nearly 100 people were killed and more than a million were displaced by heavy flooding caused by a series of storms.
Nineteen typhoons struck the country last year, of which 10 were destructive, leading to more than 1,500 deaths and affecting nearly 10 percent of the total population, according to the government.
[Image via Agence France-Presse]