Monster typhoon threatens Phillipines, Taiwan

A strong typhoon off the Philippines’ mountainous north forced authorities to close schools in the capital for a second day on Thursday as disaster-response teams braced for possible floods and landslides.

Typhoon Sepat was roaring over the Pacific Ocean about 500km east of northern Luzon island with sustained winds of 185km/h and gusts of up to 220km/h, the strongest storm to threaten the country this year, forecasters said.

Sepat could pick up energy as it moves over the ocean and turn into a super typhoon—a storm with sustained winds of 215km/h, government forecaster Lucrecio About said.

“It can wash out everything not made of cement or steel with that wind,” About said.

Blowing north-westward at 15km/h, Sepat was expected to pass near the northernmost province of Batanes on Saturday before churning toward southern Taiwan and mainland China.

Typhoon alerts were raised in the northern provinces of Catanduanes, Cagayan and Isabela, where fishermen were warned not to venture out to sea in small craft.

Monsoon rains induced by Sepat flooded many parts of metropolitan Manila on Wednesday, causing monstrous traffic jams and forcing authorities to suspend classes and government work. Schools remained closed on Thursday due to fear of more rains.

President Gloria Arroyo’s convoy was caught in a “nightmarish” traffic jam in the Makati financial district, causing her to be an hour late for a Wednesday-morning event, her office said in a statement.

Also on Wednesday, Hollywood movie director Quentin Tarantino was forced to abandon his limousine, which got stuck in Manila traffic for about two-and-a-half hours, and hop into a “pedicab” bicycle taxi as he scrambled to reach the presidential palace to receive a film award at a separate event.

More than 220 people were evacuated on Wednesday by army troops and firefighters from their flooded homes, mostly in the capital area’s flood-prone suburban cities of Marikina, Malabon and San Juan, the National Disaster Coordination Council said.

There were no immediate reports of injuries from the fifth serious storm to hit the country this year.

Back-to-back storms set off landslides and inundated many agricultural regions of Luzon last week, killing at least eight people, according to the government’s Office of Civil Defence.—Sapa-AP

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