Philippines braces for typhoon, evacuation ordered

May 25, 2011 - 10:28 AM

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Philippine officials began evacuating thousands of residents in areas prone to floods and landslides Wednesday as Typhoon Songda roared toward the country's northeast.

Government weather bureau chief Graciano Yumul said the typhoon is likely to make landfall Friday afternoon over Aurora and Isabela provinces. It has already brought heavy rains to the Philippine archipelago's eastern seaboard.

Yumul said the typhoon was packing winds of 80 miles (130 kilometers) per hour and gusts of 100 mph (160 kph).

The storm was about 190 miles (310 kilometers) east of Northern Samar province late Wednesday.

The typhoon is also expected to pass near Albay province on its way to the northeast. Gov. Joey Salceda has ordered some 250,000 residents there evacuated from coastal areas, flood- and landslide-prone villages, and areas that would be in the path of debris from the Mayon volcano. He has offered 11 pounds (five kilograms) of rice as an incentive for each family that evacuates.

In other provinces in the path of the typhoon, officials have collected rubber boats and food supplies and put rescuers on standby.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda appealed to people living near the typhoon's path to monitor news and to heed officials' calls for evacuation if necessary.

"Local government officials have enough time to prepare, so we hope we have a zero casualty," he added.

Several domestic flights were canceled or diverted because of stormy weather. Nearly 4,000 people are stranded in ports after the coast guard barred sea travel in areas with typhoon warnings.

The capital Manila and the country's western seaboard also experienced heavy downpour on Wednesday, but Yumul said that was unrelated to the typhoon.