Powerful typhoon in Northern Philippines

Powerful typhoon

Powerful typhoon prompts evacuations in northern Philippines.

Manila, The Gulf Observer: A powerful typhoon shifted and abruptly gained strength Sunday as it blew closer to the northeastern Philippines, prompting evacuations from high-risk villages and the capital, which could be sideswiped by the storm, officials said.

Typhoon Noru was swirling at sea about 115 kilometers (71 miles) east of Infanta town in Quezon province with sustained winds of 195 kilometers (121 miles per hour) and gusts of up to 240 kph (149 mph) at midafternoon. Forecasters expect it to smash into the coast later Sunday.

While barreling toward the archipelago, Noru changed track southward, pushed down by a high-pressure area to its north. It gained considerable strength, transforming from a storm with sustained winds of 85 kph (53 mph) Saturday into a super typhoon just 24 hours later in an “explosive intensification” at sea, Vicente Malano, who heads the country’s weather agency

Thousands of villagers were evacuated — some forcibly — from the typhoon’s path, as well as from mountainside villages prone to landslides and flash floods and in coastal communities that could be hit by tidal surges as high as 3 meters (about 10 feet) in Quezon province, including Polillo island and nearby Aurora province.

The typhoon is forecast to sweep through the main Luzon Island overnight and into the South China Sea on Monday. It’s on track to hit Vietnam later in the week still maintaining its powerful winds.

About 20 storms and typhoons batter the Philippines each year. The archipelago also lies in the “Pacific Ring of Fire,” a region along most of the Pacific Ocean rim where many volcanic eruptions and earthquakes occur, making the Southeast Asian nation one of the world’s most disaster-prone.