MANILA: The Philippines raised its typhoon alert to its highest level on Sunday as the approaching Typhoon Noru gained strength, prompting flight cancellations and evacuations for thousands of people, including in the capital Manila.
Noru strengthened with maximum sustained winds of 195 km/h and gusts of up to 240 km/h as of 5 p.m. on Sunday, the state weather bureau said in an advisory, just as the brunt of the typhoon began affecting the Polillo Islands in Quezon province.
Thousands of people have been evacuated from the typhoon’s path, which is expected to hit Luzon — home to a population of over 64 million people and where Manila is located — as well as areas prone to landslides and floods.
“Typhoon-force winds that are of extreme threat to life and property are expected to prevail in these areas over the next 12 hours,” the advisory read.
Noru, also locally known as Super Typhoon Karding, is forecast to bring large waves and torrential rains, with authorities issuing warnings for storm surges as high as 3 meters in areas of northern Quezon.
Widespread flooding and rain-induced landslides are expected under these conditions, weather officials said. Several provinces and cities, including Manila, have suspended school classes and government work on Sunday and Monday.
Airlines canceled dozens of flights on Sunday, including five international services, to and from Manila.
The typhoon is expected to exit into the South China Sea after barreling through Luzon overnight.
The Philippines sees about 20 storms and typhoons each year. The archipelago nation of more than 7,600 islands also lies in the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, an arc of faults around the Pacific Ocean where the majority of the world’s volcanic eruptions and earthquakes occur, making it one of the most disaster-prone countries.
In 2013, Typhoon Haiyan, one of the most powerful tropical cyclones ever recorded, left more than 6,000 people dead or missing, and displaced millions in the central Philippines.