EXTREME WEATHER

Powerful typhoon Nock-Ten batters Philippines on Christmas Day

The typhoon is forecast to sweep west toward the country’s most densely populated areas, passing just south of the capital Manila on Monday afternoon

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 25 December, 2016, 11:06am
UPDATED : Monday, 26 December, 2016, 12:17am

A powerful typhoon hit the Philippines late on Christmas Day, cutting off electricity to millions and disrupting Christmas celebrations for tens of thousands who fled its approach, officials said.

Typhoon Nock-Ten made landfall in the eastern island province of Catanduanes at 6:30 pm with gusts of 235 kilometres (146 miles) an hour, the state weather service said.

Officials said there were no immediate reports of damage or casualties from the storm, one of the strongest this year to hit the disaster-prone archipelago on the Pacific Rim.

The military and local governments earlier moved at least 102,000 people from the coasts, Catanduanes and the nearby Bicol peninsula, an impoverished region which is home to more than five million, provincial officials said.

“Most of Bicol is without electricity,” Joaquin Berces, a member of the region’s civil defence office told AFP as residents hunkered down in the dark.

“We stayed indoors for our own safety and we probably won’t know the extent of the damage until tomorrow,” he said by telephone from Legazpi city, the regional capital about 350 kilometres southeast of Manila.

Communication and power lines have been cut in Catanduanes, he added.

Experts had earlier warned of large coastal waves of up to 2.5 metres (eight-feet) high, floods and landslides.

The typhoon was forecast to sweep west toward the country’s most densely populated areas, passing just south of the capital Manila on Monday afternoon.

“It would pass over land overnight and we hope that would dissipate the typhoon’s strength somewhat” before reaching the Manila area, state weather forecaster Lorie de la Cruz told AFP.

She said maximum sustained winds during landfall were 185 kilometres (115 miles) per hour, far lower than the 250 kph winds estimated earlier by the US Joint Typhoon Warning Centre.

Nock-Ten, named after a bird found in Laos, struck on one of the biggest holidays in the mainly Christian nation, and one provincial governor offered roast pig at evacuation centres to entice people to abandon celebrations at home.

“Floods terrify me. Each time I hear about a coming typhoon I want to throw up,” Criselda Buenvenuto, 68, told AFP as she joined neighbours sheltering at a school in the town of Santo Domingo in Bicol.

The widow lived alone in the kitchen of her house after the rest of it was destroyed during a typhoon 10 years ago that killed more than a thousand people.

Floods terrify me. Each time I hear about a coming typhoon I want to throw up
Criselda Buenvenuto, Santo Domingo resident

In the village of Alcala on the slopes of the active Mayon volcano, about 100 babies, toddlers, parents and elderly people were the first to be trucked off to another school as rain and strong winds shook trees.

“There are large ash deposits on the slopes (of Mayon). Heavy rain can dislodge them and bury our homes in mud,” said local official Alberto Lindo.

The government forced more than 12,000 residents to move away from the Catanduanes coast, provincial vice governor Shirley Abundo said on ABS-CBN television.