Typhoon Forces 25,000 People to Flee Homes in Philippines

The Philippines evacuated almost 25,000 people to safer ground as Typhoon Saola is expected to hit land Wednesday before heading for Taiwan and Hong Kong.

(Bloomberg) — The Philippines evacuated almost 25,000 people to safer ground as Typhoon Saola is expected to hit land Wednesday before heading for Taiwan and Hong Kong. 

At least 14 domestic flights were canceled, while some schools were shut and some classes were suspended on Tuesday, the first day of the school year in the Southeast Asian nation. The heavy rainfall from Saola added to the southwest monsoon, which has affected 64,000 people in 21 provinces, according to the its disaster management agency. 

The Philippines has raised the third-highest wind signal over its northeastern islands, warning of strong winds and power disruptions, the state weather bureau Pagasa said in its latest bulletin at 2 p.m. on Tuesday. Taiwan issued a sea warning late Monday and may announce a land warning within hours. 

Saola is forecast to “persist in strength” by the time it passes very close or over the Philippines’ northernmost Batanes province, according to Pagasa. It may then weaken, though Pagasa didn’t rule out the chance of the storm gradually “re-intensifying and reaching into a super typhoon category.” It is on track to hit Hong Kong later this week, according to the US Joint Typhoon Warning Center.

The typhoon, which has maximum sustained winds of 155 kilometers per hour (96.3 miles per hour) near the center and gusts of up to 190 kilometers, will likely move northwestward from Tuesday until it exits Philippine territory on Wednesday evening or early Thursday, Pagasa said. 

Over the weekend, the Philippine provinces of Isabela and eastern parts of Cagayan and Quirino experienced heavy rainfall.

The Philippines is also monitoring another cyclone, Storm Haikui, that’s expected to enter its territory on Wednesday. It’s “less likely to directly affect the country” but may spur monsoon rains in the main northern and central areas this week.

In Taiwan, authorities suspended some boats operating from Pingtung from the afternoon of Aug. 30, though the weather bureau expects the eye of the typhoon to miss Taiwan. People on the island are bracing for the storm’s approach, including by harvesting fruit before winds get too high, state-owned TaiwanPlus reported. 

“We also remind citizens that in face of a possibly strong typhoon, we have to be prepared,” Premier Chen Chien-jen said in a Facebook post, announcing the government has activated contingency plans and is releasing water from reservoirs ahead of the storm. 

In the Philippines, the northern provinces of Cagayan, Isabela and Ilocos Sur were among the areas hit by Super Typhoon Doksuri in July. Half a million people were affected and 14 died. The storm destroyed more than 1.3 billion pesos ($23 million) of agricultural crops and caused about 2.66 billion pesos of damage to infrastructure.

About 20 cyclones pass through the Philippines each year, making it one of the world’s worst-hit countries. Saola is the seventh tropical cyclone to reach the country so far this year.

–With assistance from Ian Sayson, Cecilia Yap and Richard Frost.

(Adds evacuation efforts, flights and schools affected in Philippines)

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