Typhoon Noul causes thousands to flee their homes

Typhoon Noul causes thousands to flee their homes

The storm hit Cagayan province late Sunday afternoon and was expected to move north towards Japan, the government weather station said.

The civil defence office said there were no immediate reports of storm-related deaths but the typhoon knocked out power in much of the province, making it difficult to get data.

Meteorologists said Noul’s movement slowed slightly before reaching the Philippines, but it also strengthened to pack gusts of 220 kilometres per hour.

In Taiwan, authorities warned sailors of strong winds and high waves and evacuated almost 1,000 tourists from an island off the southeast coast.

“This is a very dangerous storm. It is the strongest so far this year,” said Rene Paciente, head of the Philippines’ marine weather division.

More than 1,680 people in Cagayan were evacuated from coastal villages before the storm hit and the exercise was continuing, said Norma Talosig, regional civil defence chief.

“They have to evacuate to higher ground, not in their village. They are being assisted by the local governments using buses and trucks, even ambulances,” she told AFP. More than 2,000 were expected to flee but Talosig expressed fears some people would refuse to go due to complacency.

“The weather was good there earlier so it was a bit hard to get the message out,” she said. “Some people were worried about the security of the belongings they may leave behind. We have been trying our best, aiming for zero casualties but our efforts will be useless if some people don’t listen,” she added.

Over 1,200 other people evacuated their homes in the neighbouring province of Isabela as a precautionary measure before the storm, the civil defence office said.

TAKE NO CHANCES

National civil defence chief Alexander Pama said that given the possibility of storm surges of up to two metres, they were taking no chances. “There is no exact science in this. So we will stay on the safe side” by ordering evacuations in vulnerable areas, he said.

“Even as we speak, our armed forces are already moving … to help in the evacuation. So too are our police forces who are conducting evacuations in their municipalities,” he told reporters.

Storm surges – tsunami-like waves generated by powerful typhoons – have become a major concern during storms.

In November 2013 storm surges were the main killers as Super Typhoon Haiyan ravaged the central Philippines, leaving more than 7,350 people dead or missing.

Several hundred people living in a farming hamlet below the restive Bulusan volcano on Luzon were also evacuated due to fears that rain would mix with volcanic ash on its slopes and form deadly and fast-moving mudflows.

The civil defence office also cited numerous areas that could be hit by landslides or flash floods due to the “heavy to intense rainfall” brought by the typhoon.

The government suspended ferry services in affected areas and some domestic flights were also cancelled. About 20 typhoons and storms hit the Philippines each year, many of them deadly.

In Taiwan nearly 1,000 tourists had been evacuated from scenic Green Island by noon, an official from the county government said. “Tourists would otherwise be stranded there for at least two days,” he said.

All ferries and flights to Green Island and another tourist attraction, Orchid Island, were suspended and people were urged to stay away from coastal areas. The storm was expected to pass to the east of Taiwan on Monday.