|The typhoon was expected to make landfall in the northern Philippines on Monday [Reuters]
Super Typhoon Megi has lashed the northern tip of the Philippines, causing landslides in mountainous areas and whipping up huge waves along the coast.
The northeastern province of Isabela was the first to feel the typhoon's fury on Monday morning although there were no immediate reports of casualties, chief government weatherman Graciano Yumol said.
"The natural hazards are taking place. There are landslides in the mountains, we have swells, storm surges and big waves along the coast line, and now we have flood alerts," Yumol said in an interview with GMA 7 television.
As of 8:00 am (0000 GMT) Monday, the government weather station tracked Megi just off the coast of Isabela, about 320 kilometres north of the capital, Manila.
The storm was not expected to hit Manila directly but Yumol warned the city's 12 million residents to remain on alert.
"It will rain here as well so do not lower your preparations," he said.
Schools were closed and thousands of people were evacuated across the north of the Philippines' main island of Luzon in preparation for what was expected to be the strongest storm of the year, rescue and relief officials said.
Megi was expected to cut across the northern part of Luzon throughout Monday, then exit out to the South China Sea on Tuesday, the weather station said.
The storm, dubbed a "super-typhoon" by government relief agencies, was moving southwest at 19 kilometres per hour, packing gusts of up to 260 kilometres per hour, the government weather station said.
"Some are still gauging the situation, but those who are living in low areas have voluntarily gone to higher ground," Benito Ramos, the head of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, said.
He said thousands of people had already been temporarily relocated from communities along the Cagayan river system, which had overflowed during previous typhoons.
Benigno Aquino, the Philippines' president, ordered all government agencies to be on high alert to prevent casualties, while the coast guard was instructed to ban all fishing vessels from setting off to sea in the north.
"The president is reiterating that all agencies concerned should be ready for the approaching super typhoon Juan [Megi]," Abigail Valte, a deputy spokeswoman for Aquino, said.
She warned the public against complacency, amid reports that the weather in some northern provinces remained clear as of early Sunday.
Norma Talosig, the regional chief of the Office of Civil Defence, said the government was not ruling out forced evacuation for those who refused to leave their homes despite being told to do so.
"If we have to conduct forced evacuations, we'll do it for their safety," Talosig said on national radio.
"Our main objective is the safety of the community, the safety of the responders."
In the capital, Manila, disaster officials said food packs, medicine and rescue equipment, including rubber boats, were ready in areas expected to be lashed by the typhoon.
Agrimero Cruz, the national police spokesman senior superintendent, said additional search and rescue teams from Manila were en route to the north to bolster forces there.
"We have also declared a full alert status all over the country," Cruz said.
|Search and rescue teams from Manila were send to bolster forces in the north of the Philippines [AFP]
The Philippines is battered by an average of 20 typhoons a year, some of them deadly.
Tropical Storm Ketsana and Typhoon Parma struck the northern Philippine island of Luzon within a week of each other in September and October last year, triggering the worst flooding in recent history.
The twin storms killed more than 1,000 people, affected nearly 10 million and caused damage to $4.3bn of infrastructure and property, according to the World Bank and international humanitarian agencies.
The US Navy's Joint Typhoon Warning Centre in its latest advisory on Sunday said Megi had undergone "rapid intensification", but could weaken as it moves across mountainous terrain after hitting Luzon.
Megi would then begin to steadily reintensify as it leaves the country heading for the South China Sea, it said.
China meanwhile warned its vessels to take shelter in ports and urged local authorities to prepare for emergencies caused by wind and rain, Xinhua said.