MANILA Oct 16 The Philippines evacuated almost
12,500 people before a Category 3 typhoon hit land early on
Sunday, dumping heavy rains and unleashing strong winds on
northern rice-growing areas, disaster officials said.
Weather forecasters said Typhoon Sarika, which was packing
winds of up to 150 kph (95 mph) before making landfall, was
potentially the most destructive this year. They expected it to
move west and cross the central province of Luzon on Sunday.
"Typhoon Sarika has weakened while crossing the rugged
terrain of central Luzon," the National Disaster Risk Reduction
and Management Council said in a report, but the storm was still
expected to bring moderate to heavy rainfall.
As many as 2,552 families, or 12,496 individuals, had been
pre-emptively evacuated, it added.
Sarika's wind speeds subsided to about 130 kph (81 mph)
after the landfall, said the weather bureau, adding that it was
watching another storm, Haima, that could enter the Philippines
on Monday, after forming south of Guam on Saturday.
Typhoon Sarika forced the cancellation of about 160 domestic
and international flights on Sunday and stranded more than 6,500
travellers in seaports, disaster officials said.
Storm warning signals had been raised in the capital,
Manila, and more than 20 provinces by Sunday morning.
Damage to farm crops, mostly rice and corn, was estimated at
53.5 million pesos ($1.1 million), the officials said.
Some areas were left without power, and major dams were
being closely monitored for possible overflow, while floods and
landslides blocked five roads in the northern and southern
provinces of the main island of Luzon.
Sarika is moving towards the South China Sea, weather
officials said, but the risk of flooding, power outages and wind
damage could still increase along its path.
(Reporting by Enrico dela Cruz; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)