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MANILA, Dec 24 (Reuters) - Philippine authorities on Saturday evacuated thousands in coastal villages in the country's central region where a category 4 typhoon is expected to make landfall later this weekend, bringing strong winds and heavy rains.
The weather bureau said typhoon Nock-ten, locally known as Nina, had earlier packed winds of 130 kmh (93 mph) but has since slowed to 15 kmh, moving west-northwest and was on target to hit Camarines Sur province in the Bicol peninsula.
"Families in Albay's coastlines have started fleeing to safer and higher grounds," Mina Marasigan, a spokeswoman for the national disaster agency, told reporters, adding coastal villagers in both Camarines Sur and Camarines Norte provinces were also told to move to temporary shelters. Albay is a province south of Camarines Sur.
Storm surges and flooding were also expected in low-lying and coastal areas and landslides were feared in mountain slopes, the disaster agency said.
Marasigan said authorities have raised typhoon alert levels in nine provinces along the eastern seaboard, suspending land, sea and air travel until after Sunday to avoid accidents. Thousands of holiday travelers were also stranded in transport terminals.
Several flights have been canceled for the weekend in the central and northeastern parts of the country.
The coast guard also grounded fishing boats. The energy and public works ministries have placed emergency personnel on standby to clear debris from roads and restore power. Soldiers were ordered to help the evacuation of residents.
In 2013, more than 6,000 died and 200,000 homes were destroyed after Typhoon Haiyan, the strongest-ever storm to make landfall in the Philippines, hit the central island of Leyte and Samar.
About 20 major typhoons pass through the Philippines each year. Since 1948, at least seven typhoons have hit the country during the Christmas period. (Reporting By Manuel Mogato; Editing By Sam Holmes)