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Philippines Prepares for Powerful, Slow-Moving Typhoon

People take shelter from typhoon Hagupit in an evacuation center in Surigao city, southern Philippines, Dec. 5, 2014.
People take shelter from typhoon Hagupit in an evacuation center in Surigao city, southern Philippines, Dec. 5, 2014.

One day before a powerful typhoon is expected to touch land in the central Philippines, tens of thousands of residents vacated coastal areas. The typhoon is on track to make landfall late night Saturday, and has slowed its advance in the last 24 hours. The storm has sustained winds of 215 kilometers per hour and gusts reaching 250.

The state weather bureau said typhoon Hagupit is making its way to the eastern edge of the Philippines at 13 kilometers an hour. That is about a third of the speed at which it traveled just two days ago.

Philippine Science and Technology Assistant Secretary Raymund Liboro said this is considered a "slow type" typhoon. "If it makes landfall and if it crosses the archipelago, the possibility of it lingering around, in the sense that it’s slow moving, is there," he noted.

Liboro said Hagupit will not breeze its way through the country the way super-typhoon Haiyan did last year. That storm tore apart 1.1 million houses and killed 6,300, leaving more than 1,000 missing in little more than half a day.

Hagupit is forecast to first hit Eastern Samar province and forecasters have revised expected storm surges upward to four to five meters. It is expected to cause landslides and produce heavy rainfall.

Philippine forecasters expect a northwestern track for Hagupit, with its outer reaches touching the capital Manila in the country's northern half. The storm is expected to exit the country Wednesday.

Flight cancellations

Several flights to that part of the country have been cancelled and more than 2,000 ferry passengers are stranded, with a hold order on sea travel. Public storm warnings have gone out to more than a dozen provinces on the eastern half of the country.

Civil Defense officials said residents in Eastern Samar and along coastal areas of nearby Leyte, Cebu and Albay to the north have all moved farther inland.

Civil Defense spokeswoman Mina Marasigan said evacuees are supposed to be housed in safe structures, with food and other provisions. Military personnel are securing vital supplies and have been ordered to guard shops that were overwhelmed with a rush of panic-buying by storm-weary residents.

Locals use the name Yolanda for Typhoon Haiyan.

"They were saying they have learned from Yolanda and now it’s about time they take charge of their family security and safety, so there [are] a lot of people now going to evacuation centers on their own," Marasigan said.

The country’s social welfare department has 200,000 food packs ready for distribution. Social Welfare and Development Secretary Corazon Soliman said distribution plans have been upgraded to avoid the long waits for food that homeless residents endured during Haiyan.

Soliman said that, with goods repacked by local government workers, "we will not have transport issues and there’s immediate delivery of the relief goods to the people who would need it, especially those who are already in the evacuation centers."