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Thousands flee in Philippines as typhoon nears

Typhoon Haiyan is pictured in this NOAA satellite handout image taken November 6, 2013 at 23:13 UTC. REUTERS/NOAA/Handout

MANILA: Philippine officials said Thursday that thousands of villagers, including those from a central province devastated recently by an earthquake, are being evacuated as one of Asia's most powerful typhoons this year approaches.

Typhoon Haiyan was already packing sustained winds of 215 kilometers (134 miles) per hour and ferocious gusts of 250 kph (155 mph), and could pick up strength over the Pacific Ocean before it slams into the eastern Philippine province of Eastern Samar on Friday, according to government forecasters.

Eduardo del Rosario, who heads the government's main disaster-response agency, said governors and mayors were supervising the evacuation of thousands of residents away from landslide- and flood-prone communities in several provinces where the typhoon is expected to pass.

President Benigno Aquino III has ordered officials to aim for zero casualties, a goal often broken in an archipelago lashed by about 20 storms each year, most of them deadly and destructive. Haiyan is the 24th such storm to hit the Philippines this year.

Bohol Governor Edgardo Chatto said soldiers, police and rescue units were helping displaced residents, including thousands still in small tents after the earthquake, to move to safer shelters. The typhoon was not forecast to directly hit Bohol but the province was still expected to be lashed by strong wind and rain, government forecaster Jori Loiz said.

Army troops were helping transport food packs and other relief goods in hard-to-reach communities and rescue helicopters are on stand-by, the military said.

"My worst fear is that the eye of this typhoon will hit us. I hope we will be spared," Chatto told The Associated Press by telephone.

Haiyan was forecast to barrel through the country's central region Friday and Saturday before it blows toward the South China Sea on Sunday. It was not expected to hit the densely populated capital, Manila, in the north, Loiz said.

 

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