Philippines to move 100,000 people as typhoon nears

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MANILA, Nov 22 (Reuters) The Philippines is preparing to evacuate 100,000 people from coastal areas in the central Bicolregion as typhoon Mitag gathers strength and approaches, officials said today.

The Philippines 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 Bicol, the Philippines' typhoon alley, in December.

Glenn Rabonza, the head of the civil defence office, said about 10,000 people living on the slopes of Mayon volcano had already been evacuated.

''We're worried about the huge amount of volcanic debris that might be remobilised and eat up communities along the slopes of Mount Mayon,'' Rabonza told reporters, adding it could also generate storm surges.

''Coastal villages could be slammed by big waves as high as 3 to 10 metres whipped up by strong winds brought by the typhoon.'' Rabonza, a retired general, said they might call off the mass evacuation if Mitag, a Yapese woman's name pronounced Me-tok, changed course and bypassed Bicol, which is still recovering from last year's slew of typhoons.

Mitag, currently a category 1 typhoon with winds of 120 kph and gusts of up to 150 kph, is expected to make landfall either late Saturday or early Sunday and could yet veer north and pass through the main island of Luzon.

''We are looking at the possibility that it would veer towards the northern Luzon areas based on our latest forecast,'' Prisco Nilo, head of the weather bureau, told reporters.

At 730 IST, Mitag was estimated at 490 km east of the central island of Catanduanes, moving westward at 15 kph.

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

Hagibis is currently over the South China Sea and moving west towards Vietnam after killing 10 people and wounding 11 in the central and southern Philippines.

Reuters SZ RS1204

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