Philippines issues typhoon alert in rice areas

by Reuters
Friday, 15 October 2010 07:28 GMT

MANILA, Oct 15 (Reuters) - The Philippines issued typhoon warnings along coastal and landslide-prone provinces in the north of its main island of Luzon on Friday as Typhoon Megi intensified and moved towards rice and corn production areas.

Megi, a category 2 typhoon with winds of 105 kph (65 mph), was about 1,300 km (800 miles) east of southern Luzon and moving at 20 kph west northwest towards Luzon's Cagayan valley, Nathaniel Servando, a weather bureau official told reporters.

"We expect it to intensify into a strong typhoon, packing winds stronger than 150 kph and heavy rains at the rate of 50 mm per hour," Servando said, adding the bureau had asked authorities to suspend sea travel and fishing in northern Philippines.

"Fishermen are advised not to venture over the eastern and northern coasts of Luzon. Travellers are also advised to avoid landslide-prone areas."

Megi was gaining strength and was expected to develop into a category 4 typhoon by Saturday evening, Servando said. It was expected to reach northern Luzon on Monday and head out to the South China Sea on Tuesday, moving towards Hainan and northern Vietnam.

The storm is not expected to hit the capital Manila unless it changes direction unexpectedly.

Benito Ramos, a retired general and head of the national disaster agency, said emergency personnel, including soldiers, had been placed on alert to provide rescue and relief operations.

"We're aiming for zero casualty," Ramos said. Social and relief workers were preparing possible shelter areas.

In July, typhoon Conson sliced through Manila, killing 22 people and cutting power across the sprawling metropolis of 12 million people. [ID:nSGE66D01W]

Last year, the country lost 1.3 million tonnes of paddy rice following three strong typhoons in September and October, prompting it to go to the market early to boost its rice stocks.

Typhoon Ketsana, known locally as Ondoy, dumped record rain in September 2009 that submerged 80 percent of the capital region and nearby areas, killing 277 people, making tens of thousands homeless and causing more than $100 million of damage to crops, infrastructure and property. (Reporting by Manny Mogato; Editing by John Mair)

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