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24,000 leave coastal areas

TYPHOON “Chedeng” weakened to a tropical storm on Saturday and was expected to further diminish into low-pressure area on Sunday even as 24,000 people were evacuated from coastal areas in the eastern seaboard of Luzon, according to disaster and government officials.

Maysak, which days earlier hit several small islands in the Pacific Ocean as a Category-5 “super typhoon”, weakened into a 115-kilometer (71-mile) an hour storm, state weather forecaster Jun Galang told AFP.

It was also possible the storm would further weaken to between 65-85 kilometres an hour by the time it is projected to hit the northeast coast of the main Philippine island of Luzon on Sunday morning, he added.

“At those lower intensities, we can eliminate the threat posed by storm surges,” he said, referring to giant tsunami-like waves that had prompted local officials to evacuate coastal villages in the area.

Such waves caused many of the fatalities when Super Typhoon Haiyan struck the country in November 2013, leaving more than 7,350 dead or missing.

Early Saturday, the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council warned residents of Aurora and Isabela provinces to evacuate coastal areas in anticipation of Chedeng which was still churning at 250-kilometers an hour at that time.

Aurora Gov. Gerardo Noveras said they also forced local and foreign tourists, who had flocked to the province from all parts of the country as early as April 1, who check out of their resort and hotel accommodations in anticipation of Chedeng.

In Aurora’s capital of Baler, about 10,000 local and foreign tourists had to cut short their vacations and several millions in projected revenues were lost as hotel and resort owners refunded clients.

“In anticipation of Chedeng’s effects in relation to the directive of provincial disaster officials, we advised our clients to cut short their stay and we just refunded their payments,” said Karren Samonte, owner of the popular Akkaw Beach Resort.

“We too have left Baler, but will be back as soon the typhoon leaves the country,” Samonte added.

Despite its reduced strength, Galang said Maysak was still forecast to bring “moderate to occasionally intense” rain across a 400-kilometer front on Luzon’s mountainous northern section overnight Saturday.

Even light or moderate rain, if sustained for several hours, can bring floods and landslides in a locality, he noted.

The areas potentially affected have a combined population of about five million people, Social Welfare Undersecretary Vilma Cabrera told a news conference in Manila on Saturday.

Chedeng’s eye. This handout picture received on April 2, 2015 from
ESA/NASA shows the eye of Super Typhoon  Chedeng  (Maysak) as
photographed from the International Space Station in space. Inset, 
an enhanced satellite image courtesy of PAGASA.
About 20 typhoons and storms hit the Philippines each year, many of them deadly, but such weather disturbances are rare in April, the height of the tropical Asian nation’s dry season.

Maysak is forecast to strike at the tail-end of a long Easter holiday that saw millions of Filipinos flock to the beaches to escape the heat.

Cabrera said about 10,000 tourists were warned Friday to stay away from the beaches of Aurora province northeast of Manila.

Galang said the eye of the storm was tracked 365 kilometres southeast of Aurora’s coast at 3:00 pm (0700 GMT) Saturday.

It was expected to hit land there between 6:00 am and 10:00 am on Sunday (2200 GMT Saturday to 0200 GMT Sunday), he added.

“We plan to move people out of coastal villages,” Nigel Lontoc, a senior civil defence official for the region, told AFP earlier.

In all, some 24,000 people from the coastal province of Aurora, where the storm is projected to make landfall Sunday, were evacuated, he said. With AFP

“We have asked the tourists (in Aurora) to stay in their hotels and avoid the water,” he added.

Retired army general Jovie Narcise, who is visiting the Aurora town of Dingalan, said the skies began to darken there in the afternoon as big waves pounded the shore.

Small outrigger fishing boats had been pulled up and stored about 30 metres away from the water to keep them from being swept out to sea, he said.

“There are lots of tourists arriving in the area but they are going to resorts situated on higher ground,” Narcise told AFP.

Maysak last week ravaged the Federated States of Micronesia, leaving at least five dead, thousands homeless and crops destroyed. - With AFP

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