Storm gathers strength as it barrels towards northern provinces, packing winds of up to 230kph.
The Philippines has declared a state of calamity in a northern province after Super Typhoon Megi made landfall, cutting off power, forcing flight cancellations and putting the region’s rice crop at risk.
Megi, the 10th and strongest typhoon to hit the Philippines this year, hit Isabela province on Monday and was heading west-southwest across the north of the main island of Luzon with winds of 190 kph (117 mph) near the centre, forecasters said.
Tropical Storm Risk, a forecasting website, said Megi, known locally as Juan, was a category 5 super typhoon, the highest rating, with winds of more than 250 kph (155 mph).
Philippine authorities said on Tuesday the death toll from Megi had risen to 10 after it smashed into the north of the country.
Four people were killed on Monday in Pangasinan province, three of them by a collapsed structure and the other by lightning, Alex Rosete, national Red Cross spokesman, said.
Three other people drowned in a storm surge that hit the coastal town of Maconacon in Isabela province, which bore the brunt of Megi’s fury on Monday, provincial governor Faustino Dy said.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council had earlier reported three people killed elsewhere in the north of Luzon, the Philippines’ main island.
The military said the typhoon’s fury was felt in Cagayan and Isabela provinces, where trees were uprooted and roofs of houses blown away. Some areas had zero visibility.
Rice farmers like Felipe Martinez in Cagayan were starting to count their losses, with most having to take loans to grow their crops.
“My crops might get damaged if the storm hits hard, just when they’re starting to grow,” Martinez said.
|Weather officials said typhoon Megi is the strongest storm in 2010 [EPA]|
Cagayan Valley accounts for 12 per cent of the national rice output, and the typhoon is expected to destroy over 200,000 metric tonnes of crops, as the disaster strikes in the peak of harvest season.
More than 230,000 hectares of rice fields are still in their reproductive and maturing stages.
Local officials in Isabela province declared a state of calamity to ensure food and energy supply and funds for rescue, relief and rehabilitation work after the typhoon leaves, officials at the disaster agency said.
Al Jazeera’s Jamela Alindogan, reporting from Manila on Monday, said that the number of evacuees in the northern areas had reached over 4,000.
“Local officials there have said that preparing for Typhoon Megi is like preparing for war, and that the rush to ensure the safety of local residents is proving extremely complicated,” she said.
Officials said the US military, holding a nine-day drill with Filipino counterparts, had offered seven helicopters to deliver relief goods and rescue marooned residents if needed.
The PAGASA weather bureau said the typhoon had weakened and slowed down after it slammed into mountains in northwest Luzon late in the morning.
Meanwhile residents in coastal communities in Ilocos Sur province, predicted to be in the typhoon’s path, have begun moving to higher ground.
Authorities have warned them to move before the waves get too big, but many have chosen to stay behind.
“The townsfolk are used to flooding, as we don’t encounter any casualties. If there are any, it would be in the mountainous areas in nearby Abra province,” a resident said.
Police and soldiers helped villagers and their children evacuate in small boats. Fishermen were warned not to go out into the open sea.
“We would have liked to evacuate them sooner, but they’re stubborn. We are forcing them to evacuate, because this super typhoon, as they call it, might pass here,” a rescuer from the police force told a local reporter.
Local disaster units were starting to stock up on relief goods, and had rubber boats, generators and emergency kits on standby.
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.
The typhoon is expected to clear Luzon island on Monday night, and head across the South China Sea towards China and possibly Vietnam, which is already suffering from floods.