Tens of thousands of people have been evacuated from coastal areas of the central and southern Philippines ahead of a strong typhoon that is expected to make landfall on Thursday afternoon.
Typhoon Rai, which has been upgraded to a category 4 storm, the second-highest classification, has wind speeds of 165 km (102.5 miles) per hour, with gusts of up to 205 kph, the Philippines’ weather bureau said.
Nearly 30,000 residents in Eastern Samar province, one of the hardest hit by super typhoon Haiyan in 2013, have been evacuated from their homes in the past two days, Governor Ben Evardone told DZMM radio station.
“We are getting pounded already by strong wind and rain,” Evardone said.
The southern province of Surigao del Sur has aleady started to feel the force of the storm.
“The wind and rain is strong,” Lita Escarez, who had evacuated from a coastal community, told DZBB. “We have yet to eat breakfast as we cannot go out because of the rain.”
Airlines cancelled dozens of flights, while transport authorities banned sea and land travel in the central and southern Philippines, leaving thousands stranded at ports.
The Southeast Asian nation postponed the start of a mass vaccination drive in most parts of the country because of the storm.
The Philippines, an archipelago of more than 7,600 islands, sees around 20 tropical storms annually, causing floods and landslides.