Philippines raises storm alert level as Matmo churns toward Taiwan

Philippines raises storm alert level as Matmo churns toward Taiwan

MANILA - The Philippines raised storm alert levels on Tuesday as Typhoon Matmo threatened to drench the extreme north of the main island of Luzon with heavy rain as it churned toward Taiwan and mainland China.

Packing sustained winds of 130 kph (80 mph) and gusts of up to 160 kph, Matmo was moving at 24 kph northwest towards central Taiwan.

The storm was estimated to be about 180 km (112 miles) north of Batanes group of islands on Tuesday morning.

Storm alert number 2 was raised in the Batanes, where 7.5 to 15 mm per hour of rainfall was expected on Tuesday. The typhoon was also expected to bring rain to other parts of Luzon.

Retired Admiral Alexander Pama, executive director of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, said the government had suspended sea travel and prevented small fishing boats from venturing into the area.

"We do not expect the typhoon to make landfall anywhere in the country but we are still advising our people in the smaller islands in northern Luzon to take extra precautions," Pama said.

"We continue to track the typhoon and we expect it to exit the Philippine area of responsibility on Wednesday afternoon."

Matmo came days after super Typhoon Rammasun killed nearly 100 people and destroyed 7.3 billion pesos (S$209 million) of crops and infrastructure.

Wide areas of the southern half of Luzon remain without power after the storm toppled transmission lines and electric poles.

Nearly 600 people were stranded in three ports in northern Luzon after 11 ferries suspended service until the storm passes. At least 10 domestic flights were also cancelled. Schools were closed in northern Luzon.

Typhoons are common at this time of year in the South China Sea, picking up strength from the warm waters and dissipating over land.

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