Evacuations start as typhoon Mangkhut bears down on the Philippines

MANILA: A super typhoon roared towards the Philippines yesterday, prompting thousands to evacuate ahead of its heavy rains and fierce winds that are set to strike at the weekend.

Typhoon Mangkhut, which has already blasted through the Northern Mariana Islands and Guam, is speeding across the Pacific with winds as high as 255kmh.

The authorities said some 10 million people in the Philippines are in the storm's path, not including millions more in heavily populated coastal China.

Thousands have begun evacuating in seaside areas of the northern tip of the main Philippine island of Luzon, where the storm is expected to make landfall on early Saturday.

Flooding, landslides and wind damage from the coming storm were top concerns as the authorities prepared equipment for rescue and relief operations.

Schools were shuttered and farmers started early harvesting of corn and rice that could be ruined by flooding.

An average of 20 typhoons and storms lash the Philippines each year, killing hundreds of people and leaving millions in near-perpetual poverty.

The country's deadliest on record is Super Typhoon Haiyan, which left more than 7,350 people dead or missing in November 2013.

The state weather service said Mangkhut will be the strongest typhoon so far this year.

The typhoon is expected to boost the intensity of seasonal monsoon rains that have already caused widespread flooding in central Luzon, a mainly farming region north of capital Manila.

Poor communities reliant on fishing are some of the most vulnerable to fierce typhoon winds and storm surges (rise in seawater level caused by a storm).

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said it expects "substantial damage" on the Philippine path of Mangkhut.

Storm surges of up to 7m are expected to hit coastal areas, it said, while heavy rains could trigger landslides and flash floods. - AFP