Thousands evacuated and flights grounded as Typhoon Rammasun closes in on Philippines

PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 July, 2014, 3:02pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 15 July, 2014, 6:48pm

Thousands of villagers living in areas prone to flooding and landslides have been evacuated in the Philippines as Typhoon Rammasun approaches the country, packing gusts of up to 150km/h.

Schools suspended classes in several cities, including in the capital, Manila - in the typhoon’s expected path - and about 50 domestic flights and four international flights have been cancelled, along with ferry services, due to bad weather.

More than 4,000 ferry passengers and more than 50 vessels have been stranded in ports, where coast guard officials warned them from venturing into the seas.

Watch: Philippines braces for Typhoon Rammasun

While it is unclear whether the typhoon will head to Hong Kong after crossing the Philippines, the city has been warned to expect a weekend of rain and wind.

By Tuesday morning the typhoon was 180 kilometres east of Luzon's coastal Legazpi city, government weather forecaster Rene Paciente said.

It is the strongest storm to threaten the country since Haiyan, a category-five "super typhoon", wiped out nearly everything in its path when it crossed the central Philippines in November.

On its current path, it will also be the first to score a direct hit on Manila in at least four years, the weather bureau said.

Alexander Pama, executive director of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, said rescue teams have been positioned near disaster-prone regions, along with packs of food and medicine, army trucks and ambulance vans.

Watch: How typhoons are formed

Hong Kong Observatory said last night there was a chance the typhoon could be centred within 800km of Hong Kong on Thursday.

Forecasters predict it will lead to a weekend washout, with strong winds and heavy showers.

A statement on the Observatory’s website yesterday said  Hong Kong would see “sunny periods and a few showers in the next couple of days [while] weather will begin to deteriorate with rain and strengthening winds on Thursday”.

READ: Inside the Observatory: How Hong Kong's weathermen make their predictions

The US Joint Typhoon Warning Centre said last night: “Rammasun … has tracked west-southwestward at 10 knots over the past six hours. Maximum significant wave height is 24 feet.”

Last week, Typhoon Neoguri battered Okinawa in Japan before moving to the Japanese mainland and forcing the evacuation of tens of thousands.

At least seven people were reported to have been killed as mudslides and floods hit houses.

While Hong Kong has avoided any typhoons so far this year, the city has sweltered, with the hottest June since records began in 1884.

The monthly average was 29 degrees Celsius – 1.1 degrees above normal for June.