Authorities are eager to avoid a repeat of
recent deadly typhoon disasters [AFP]
Tens of thousands of people are being evacuated from coastal areas in the central Bicol region of the Philippines as typhoon Mitag gathers strength.

The country is trying to avoid a repeat of last year's devastating typhoon Durian, which killed 1,200 people and left 120,000 homeless when it crashed through the same area, known in the country as "typhoon alley".

About 10,000 people living on the slopes of Mayon volcano in Bicol have already been evacuated.

The total number of evacuees in the region, which is just south of the Manilla, the Philippine capital, was expected to rise to at least 100,000 in the next 24 hours.

Glenn Rabonza, head of the country's civil defence office, said: "We're worried about the huge amount of volcanic debris that might be re-mobilised and eat up communities along the slopes of Mount Mayon.

"Coastal villages could be slammed by big waves as high as three-to-10 metres whipped up by strong winds brought by the typhoon."

Boards dismantled

Mitag, currently a category one typhoon with winds of 120kph and gusts of up to 150kph, is expected to make landfall late on Saturday or early Sunday.

Workers have dismantled advertising boards placed along Manila's major roads before the storm.

Many such boards collapsed during last year's storm, killing several people.

At 10am local time (0200 GMT), Mitag was estimated to be 490km east of the central island of Catanduanes, moving westward at 15kph.

Mitag follows storm Hagibis that caused landslides, flooding and destruction of property, infrastructure and farmlands worth about $1 million.

Hagibis is currently over the South China Sea and moving west towards Vietnam after killing 13 people in the central and southern Philippines.

Source: Agencies