Thousands evacuated in Philippines as powerful typhoon nears

MANILA - The Philippines on Saturday evacuated thousands of people in the northeastern part of its main island of Luzon on Saturday, less than 24 hours before a powerful typhoon was expected to make landfall.

Typhoon Noul, a category 4 storm with winds of 160 kph (99 mph) and gusts of up to 195 kph, was about 210 kms (130 miles) north northeast of Catanduanes island in the central Philippines.

It was expected to hit the rice-producing provinces of Cagayan and Isabela at around 5 a.m. (2100 GMT) on Sunday before weakening as it moved across the Sierra Madre mountains and into northeastern Luzon.

The weather bureau raised storm alerts in 19 areas on Luzon, warning that strong winds and intense rain could produce a 2.5 metre high storm surge along the coast areas and landslides in mountainous areas.

Raben Dimaano, a disaster official in Sorsogon province, said more than 11,000 people were moved to temporary shelters in two towns around Mount Bulusan, a volcano which erupted twice this week, because of the danger of mud flows.

Alexander Pama, head of national disaster risk reduction and management council, said Noul's intense rainfall within a 300-km diameter area could topple power lines, uproot trees, blow roofs off thatched houses and damage crops like rice and corn in the region.