Philippines braces for typhoon over Easter

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 02, 2015 1:35 AM

MANILA (Reuters) - The Philippines issued warnings of possible landslides and storm surges, with typhoon Maysak set to strike eastern coastal areas, where many resorts are located, over the Easter weekend.

Maysak, initially a top-rated category 5 typhoon, has weakened to category 4 as it lost strength over the water. It is expected to further lose strength as it hits the mountains of northeastern Philippines on Saturday or Sunday, the weather bureau said.

But authorities are concerned foreign and Filipino tourists spending the long Easter weekend on the beaches along the eastern coasts of the main Luzon island may ignore warnings. The typhoon is expected to make landfall within 72 hours. The Easter holidays began on Thursday in the Philippines.

"This will bring waves which our surfers really like. But this is a typhoon we are facing, even if we say it may become just a storm...The waves will be strong and it will be dangerous for our fellowmen in the eastern coasts," Esperanza Cayanan, an officer at the weather bureau, said in a televised disaster briefing.

Officials of Aurora province northeast of Manila estimate about 10,000 tourists were expected to troop to its Baler Bay, a popular spot for surfers.

Storm surges 3 to 4 meters high were expected along eastern coasts, Cayanan said.

Maysak, packing winds of 175 kms per hour (109 miles per hour) near the center and gusts of up to 210 kph, entered Philippine territory late on Wednesday.

The typhoon was spotted 995 kms (618 miles) east of Catarman in Northern Samar province southeast of Manila before noon of Thursday, and was moving northwest at 19 kph.

Heavy rainfall was expected within a radius of 150 to 200 km (93 to 124 miles) from the eye of the storm, Cayanan said.

The typhoon could damage rice and corn crops in central and northern areas of the Philippines, although damage is likely to be minimal as the major harvest of the national staple rice was finished around February.

About 20 major typhoons pass through the Philippines yearly, and the storms have become fiercer in recent years. After Haiyan, a category 5 typhoon that struck in November 2013, the toll of dead and missing ran to nearly 8,000 people.

(Reporting by Rosemarie Francisco; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)