A powerful typhoon hit the northeastern Philippines and was barreling across the heavily populated island of Luzon toward the capital Manila in a densely populated path where thousands have been evacuated to safety.
Typhoon Noru became a super typhoon “after a period of explosive intensification”, with sustained winds increasing to 195km/h (121 mph) on Sunday morning from 120km/h (74.5 mph) on Saturday evening, the disaster agency said in an advisory.
Typhoon Noru hit the coastal town of Burdeos on Polillo Island in Quezon province shortly before nightfall.
“It has been raining continuously here”, Al Jazeera’s Barnaby Lo said reported from a school sheltering people who were evaluated in Manila.
“They’re not taking any chances. They’re okay to leave behind their property. They’re okay to leave behind their belongings”, Lo said.
“What they want to do is to save their lives because it is a super typhoon.
Philippine National Police chief General Rodolfo Azurin said that they are asking people who live in dangerous zones “to adhere to calls for evacuation whenever necessary”.
“The typhoon is strong and we live by the sea,” said Marilen Yubatan, who left her shanty in Manila with her two young daughters. “If we fall into the water, I don’t know where I will end up with my children.”
The Philippines is regularly ravaged by storms, with scientists warning they are becoming more powerful as the world gets warmer because of climate change.
Weather forecaster Robb Gile told the AFP news agency that the rapid intensification of Noru as it neared land was “unprecedented”. The meteorology agency said its wind speeds had increased by 90 kilometres per hour (56 miles per hour) in 24 hours.
“Typhoons are like engines – you need a fuel and an exhaust to function,” said Gile.
“In the case of [Noru], it has a good fuel because it has plenty of warm waters along its track and then there is a good exhaust in the upper level of the atmosphere – so it’s a good recipe for explosive intensification,” he said.
In Manila, emergency personnel braced for the possibility of strong winds and heavy rain battering the city of more than 13 million people.
Forced evacuations have started in some “high-risk” areas of the capital, officials said.
Thousands of people were also evacuated from mountainside villages prone to landslides and flash floods and in coastal communities that could be hit by tidal surges as high as three meters (about 10 feet) in Quezon province, including Polillo island and nearby Aurora province.
“The combined effects of storm surge and high waves breaking along the coast may cause life-threatening and damaging inundation or flooding,” the weather agency warned.
The Philippine Coast Guard said more than 1,200 passengers and 28 vessels were stranded in ports south of the capital.
Classes have been cancelled and non-essential government services suspended for Monday.
The typhoon is predicted to barrel through Luzon Island overnight before starting to blow away into the South China Sea on Monday, forecasters said.
Noru comes nine months after another super typhoon devastated swathes of the country, killing more than 400 people and leaving hundreds of thousands homeless.
The Philippines, an archipelago of more than 7,600 islands, sees an average of 20 tropical storms a year.