Thousands evacuate as typhoon skirts Philippines

AP News
Posted: May 25, 2011 8:35 PM
Thousands evacuate as typhoon skirts Philippines

Thousands of people along the eastern Philippine coastline were moving to temporary shelters Thursday as a powerful typhoon packing strong winds and plenty of rain roared toward the country's northeast.

Typhoon Songda was not expected to make landfall but will skirt along shores with winds of up to 93 miles (150 kilometers) per hour and rainfall of 1.2 inches (30 millimeters), the government weather bureau said.

"It has a big radius, so it can affect many areas even if it does not make landfall," said forecaster Mario Palafox.

About 20 typhoons hit the Philippines every year, killing hundreds of people and destroying crops despite government efforts to minimize casualties and damage by ordering early evacuations.

In central Albay province, Gov. Joey Salceda sent military trucks to begin moving 250,000 residents from coastal and landslide-prone villages and areas in the path of debris from the Mayon volcano. He also offered 11 pounds (five kilograms) of rice as an incentive for each family that evacuates.

Government offices in the region were closed and flights canceled. More than 7,000 people were stranded in ports after the coast guard barred sea travel in areas with typhoon warnings.

In other provinces leading up to the northwest, officials have collected rubber boats and food supplies and put rescuers on standby.

"Local government officials have enough time to prepare, so we hope we have" no casualties, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said.

President Benigno Aquino III left on a visit to Thailand on Thursday but instructed officials to send him regular updates.