MANILA, Philippines (AP) — A tropical storm strengthened into a typhoon Tuesday as it hurtled toward the northeastern Philippines, prompting disaster-response authorities to evacuate thousands of people from villages prone to floods and landslides.
Typhoon Rammasun, packing winds of 120 kilometers (75 miles) per hour and gusts of up to 150 kph (93 mph), was expected to smash into land later Tuesday in Albay or Sorsogon provinces, where thousands of residents have moved from their villages to emergency shelters.
Schools suspended classes in several cities, including in the capital, Manila, in the typhoon's expected path and about 50 domestic flights and four international flights have been cancelled due to bad weather.
Albay, about 340 kilometers (212 miles) southeast of Manila, is a disaster-prone province where mudslides from Mayon, the country's most active volcano, buried villages in 2006 and left about 1,600 people dead and missing.
By Tuesday morning the typhoon was 180 kilometers (112 miles) east of Albay's coastal Legazpi city, government weather forecaster Rene Paciente said, adding it may blow across or near the densely populated capital Wednesday morning.
Alexander Pama, executive director of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, said rescue teams have been positioned near disaster-prone regions, along with packs of food and medicine, army trucks and ambulance vans.
More than 4,000 ferry passengers and more than 50 vessels have been stranded in ports, where coast guard officials warned them from venturing into the seas.
The first impact from Rammasun is expected to be felt in metropolitan Manila late Tuesday, then it is forecast to blow across or near the flood-prone capital of 12 million people before passing through rice-growing northern provinces before starting to move into the South China Sea late Wednesday, forecasters said.
Storms are common in the Philippines, and the central provinces have not fully recovered from the massive devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan last November. Haiyan's strong winds and tsunami-like storm surges flattened towns, leaving at least 6,300 people dead and more than 1,000 missing.