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Powerful Typhoon Slams into Philippines, Spoiling Christmas

Weather specialist Benison Estareja shows the track of Tropical Storm Nock-Ten during a press conference in Quezon city, north of Manila, Philippines, Dec. 23, 2016.

A powerful typhoon has disrupted Christmas festivities in the eastern Philippines, forcing tens of thousands of people to set aside their holiday celebrations and head to shelters.

The weather service in Manila says Typhoon Nock-Ten struck Sunday evening on the remote island of Catanduanes with wind gusts of up to 255 kilometers per hour. No casualties were immediately been reported.

As many as 200,000 people were under evacuation orders, but officials say it has been difficult to get them to leave their homes because of the Christmas holiday, which is a major celebration in the largely Roman Catholic nation.

One governor resorted to enticing people by promising that the shelters would be serving "lechon," a roast pig Christmas delicacy. Governor Villafuerte of Camarines Sur, which is in the typhoon's path, tweeted "I know it's Christmas . . . but this is a legit typhoon . . . Please evacuate, we'll be having lechon at evacuation centers."

The Philippines' National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council reported more than 11,000 ship passengers and more than 1,000 cargo ships were waiting out the storm in various ports. Heavy rains and strong winds have been battering the Bicol peninsula where the storm came ashore.

Nock-Ten is expected to move westward, reaching densely populated areas of the Philippines, including the capital, Manila, in the coming hours through Monday.

Welfare official Felinio Castro told the Associated Press, "It's difficult to force celebrations when our lives will be put at risk." He urged people to "prioritize safety and take heed of warnings by local government units."

The Philippines has a history of typhoons striking near the end of the year. In November 2013, Typhoon Haiyan plowed into the Philippines as one of the most deadly tropical cyclones on record. Also known in the Philippines as Typhoon Yolanda, the storm killed 7,800 people according to national emergency management officials.

The Philippines' weather agency says seven Christmas Day typhoons have struck the nation over the past 65 years.