Philippine (HRNW): Thousands of people have begun evacuating from coastal areas of the Philippines as a super typhoon heads towards the country. Typhoon Mangkhut, which is currently a Category 4 hurricane, is due to make landfall on the northern tip of the main island of Luzon by Saturday. Schools and offices are being closed and farmers are racing to save crops. Ten million people are in the path of the storm, along with millions more in coastal areas of southern China. The Philippines is hit by about 20 typhoons and storms a year. Forecasters say Mangkhut is the strongest so far in 2018 – 900km in diameter, with sustained winds of at least 209 km/h. The storm, which was earlier packing winds of 255km/h (160mph) as a Category 5, has already blasted through the Northern Mariana Islands and Guam.
Authorities in the Philippines say they expect storm surges of up to 7m (23 feet) and are warning that heavy rains could trigger landslides and flash floods. “We are really frightened,” said Delaila Pasion, who has fled her home. “They say it is so strong, we were too scared to remain.” “During previous monsoon rains, half of our house was destroyed so I wanted to take my grandchildren to safety,” she told journalists. Residents of this small, low-rise town say they’ve been through this before, they’ve seen other storms. Farmers are working around the clock to harvest their rice paddies. They say the rice is still not ripe, but want to salvage what they can before this storm comes in and potentially devastates their fields. Authorities have told people to move on, and there is an evacuation centre just 500m down the road. Some cars, seen with bedding on the roof, are leaving the area, but some people say they want to stay inside their homes to prevent thieves entering and taking their belongings.
Others have been tying down their roofs with rocks and heavy boulders, in an attempt to prevent them from flying off. Given everything I have seen, it’s somewhat alarming that there isn’t a bigger presence of police and local authorities telling people to move on. People seem to be very relaxed with the idea that a super typhoon is coming their way. The country’s deadliest storm on record is super typhoon Haiyan, which killed more than 7,000 people and affected millions in 2013. In Hong Kong preparations are already under way for the storm, though the latest forecasts suggest Mangkhut will pass to the south of the territory later in the weekend.