Philippines, Vietnam in path of typhoons

Officials stepped up the evacuation of tens of thousands of people from coastal villages in the eastern Philippines and Vietnam as separate typhoons neared their coasts on Saturday.

Typhoon Mitag was about 200km east of the Philippine island province of Catanduanes in the Bicol region late on Friday, said Prisco Nilo, head of the country’s weather bureau. The storm was packing sustained winds of 175km/h and gusts of 210 km/h.

In Vietnam, officials began evacuating 200 000 people as Typhoon Hagibis headed to the country after leaving 13 people dead in the Philippines earlier this week.

Hagibis was packing 133km/h winds and was expected to make landfall on Saturday on Vietnam’s southern coast.

Nilo told Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and other officials that Mitag appeared to have stalled, making it difficult to predict its direction. But he said the most logical direction the storm would take was toward Bicol, making landfall on Saturday on Catanduanes.

He warned of storm surges and a rise in the sea level in areas directly affected by the typhoon, and heavy rains and strong winds elsewhere.

Philippine disaster officials said more than 194 000 people have fled or been evacuated to temporary shelters in Albay, Sorsogon, Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte and Catanduanes provinces on the southern tip of the main Philippine island of Luzon.

Philippine forecasters said Mitag could intensify into a ”super typhoon” with more than 220km/h winds.

Chief government forecaster Nathaniel Cruz said a powerful but slow-moving typhoon could wreak more havoc than one that passes quickly. ”The end result is that more things will be blown down and destroyed,” he said.

In the South China Sea, 25 Filipino sailors were missing after their fishing boat capsized in rough seas, a Chinese maritime official said on Friday. Thirty other crew members were rescued and search teams were dispatched to look for the missing, said an official at the China Maritime Search and Rescue Centre who gave only his surname, Zhang. — Sapa-AP

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