MANILA (Reuters) - Thousands of passengers were stranded in seaports and some domestic flights were canceled as Typhoon Noul strengthened further before its expected landfall in the northeastern tip of the Philippines on Sunday.
The typhoon was packing winds of up to 170 kph (105 mph), with gusts of up to 205 kph (125 mph), as it approached the rice-producing provinces of Isabela and Cagayan about 400 km (250 miles) north of the capital, Manila.
But the typhoon had shrunk significantly, with heavy to intense rains expected within a 150-km diameter, half the initial forecasts, and might bring storm surges of up to 1.5 meters over the eastern coasts of Isabela and Cagayan, the weather bureau said.
"It will almost just brush the country but it will bring strong winds," weather forecaster Fernando Cada said in a radio interview.
Noul, moving at 17 kph, was estimated at 140 km (85 miles) northeast of Casiguran, Aurora province.
But United Kingdom-based Tropical Storm Risk estimated the category 5 typhoon would skip Philippine provinces and veer north over the waters toward Japan.
More than 10,000 passengers and over 1,000 shipping vessels were stranded in various ports in the country, mostly along its eastern seaboard. Cebu Pacific canceled at least six domestic flights to northern Philippines.
Officials in northern Philippine provinces have alerted rescue units and positioned relief goods, as they prepared to move people away from low-lying and flood-prone areas.
"They are now ready there, but we will still augment, send reinforcement, so that they won't have any difficulty in case the size of the typhoon widens," Bonifacio Cuarteros, head of Cagayan province's disaster agency, said in a radio interview.
More than 11,000 residents were evacuated to temporary shelters in two towns around Mount Bulusan, a volcano in central Philippines that erupted twice last week, because of the danger of mud flows.
An average of 20 typhoons cross the Philippines annually, with the storms becoming fiercer in recent years. More than 8,000 people died or went missing and about a million were made homeless by Haiyan, a category 5 typhoon that struck the central Philippines in 2013.
(Story refiles to clarify Tropical Storm Risk forecast)
(Reporting by Rosemarie Francisco; Editing by Peter Cooney)