A strong typhoon slammed into the rice-producing Philippine northern region on Sunday, sparking warnings of possible landslides, flash floods and storm surges, national disaster agency officials said.
Typhoon Kalmaegi, with central winds of 130 kph (81 mph) and gusts of up to 160 kph, made landfall early evening Sunday in Isabela province, dumping heavy rains that soaked farms, said Alexander Pama, executive director of the national disaster risk reduction and management council.
"I am calling on our countrymen ... take proper precautions for your situation and listen to the warnings of your village leaders. Do not wait for the storm to hit you," Pama said in a live television broadcast.
Residents in at least nine northern provinces, which have been drenched by days of rains, were warned to take precautions and stay away from already soggy mountainsides and swollen rivers.
At least three towns in the direct path of the storm have initiated a "pre-emptive evacuation," the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said.
Classes have been suspended in cities and provinces that are expected to be swamped by floodwaters overnight or on Monday.
Kalmaegi, known locally as “Luis,” is moving west northwest at 22 kph, but is expected to weaken and lose speed as it will cross a mountainous region before exiting into the South China Sea.
“There are still no reports of casualties and damage,” said Pama. “We are initiating our disaster response. We will evacuate flood prone and low lying areas, we have pre-positioned food packs for displaced families.”
The disaster agency has no estimate on the number of people that were moved to shelter areas, but hundreds had evacuated coastal villages as the storm approached.
Typhoon alert levels were raised in 22 provinces, mostly in the northern and central plains of the main island of Luzon.
On Sunday, civil aviation authorities grounded 24 domestic flights while the coast guard stopped ferries and fishing boats from going to sea. Soldiers were placed on alert to evacuated communities.
“Some farmers have started to harvest rice and corn days before the typhoon,” said Norma Talosig, head of the Office of Civil Defense in the Cagayan region, a major rice production area in the Philippines.
Kalmaegi, the Korean word for seagull, is the 12th weather disturbance to batter the Philippines this year.
The calamity-prone archipelago is lashed by about 20 storms and typhoons every year. Typhoon Rammasun killed 98 people and left five others missing in provinces around Manila in July.
Some material for this report came from Reuters, AFP and AP.