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Super Typhoon Nears Philippines With 170 M.P.H. Winds

MANILA — A powerful typhoon bearing 170-mile-an-hour winds churned its way toward the northern Philippines on Friday, as thousands of people evacuated their homes and stockpiled emergency supplies in frantic preparation for the possibility of a major disaster.

Super Typhoon Mangkhut, the equivalent of a Category 5 hurricane, was expected to make landfall on the northern island of Luzon early Saturday morning with an intensity not seen since Typhoon Haiyan swept across the central Philippines in 2013, killing more than 6,000 people. Heavy rainfall and whipping winds were already being reported on the island’s eastern coast.

The new storm is on track to hit a less densely populated, less vulnerable area than the one that was ravaged by Haiyan. Still, government officials, hoping to avoid anything like that storm’s devastation, pleaded with vulnerable residents to move to shelters, fearing drenching rains and devastating mudslides along the island’s mountainous coastlines.

Luzon is the Philippines’ largest and most populous island, but the northern tip, where the typhoon was expected to pass, is largely agricultural and is known as the country’s breadbasket. More than four million people live in the area that is likely to be most affected by the storm.

Officials warned of severe flooding and extremely high winds, with rainfall of as much as six to 10 inches in certain areas. Mindful of the chaos that followed Haiyan, the government deployed emergency teams, communications systems and supplies, including food and water, to the threatened area.

[The devastation of 2013’s Typhoon Haiyan haunts the Philippines as a new storm bears down on the country.]

Storm surges as high as 20 feet were expected, and officials warned fishermen and owners of small boats against taking out their craft.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines called on churches throughout the predominantly Catholic country to recite a prayer for deliverance from calamities.

The eye of the storm was about 150 miles offshore in the Pacific Ocean at 4:30 p.m. local time on Friday and was moving steadily toward Luzon at about 12.5 miles per hour.

If the typhoon sticks to its current course, it will first hit the Sierra Madre. With peaks as high as 6,000 feet, the mountain range serves as a barrier for typhoons from the Pacific and can be expected to slow the storm down.

From there, the storm’s course would take it over the Cagayan Valley, one of the country’s largest agricultural regions and a major producer of rice, corn and vegetables. Heavy flooding or other damage could cripple the country’s food supply. The Philippines’ benchmark stock index was the worst performer in Asia on Friday, as investors feared the storm would exacerbate inflationary pressures in the country.

The first large Cagayan Valley community in its path is Peñablanca, a town of about 50,000 people.

From Cagayan Valley, the typhoon, known as Ompong in the Philippines, is expected to reach the Cordillera mountains, an even wider and taller range with one peak of more than 9,500 feet.

If the mountains do not alter its course, the typhoon is projected to pass over Laoag City, with about 100,000 people, in Ilocos Norte Province, before leaving the Philippines and heading toward Hong Kong, southern China and northern Vietnam.

All told, it will traverse a distance of roughly 120 miles over Luzon if it sticks to its projected path.

Throughout the region, thousands of people took shelter in temporary evacuation centers, fortifying their homes by placing wood over the windows and stockpiling emergency food, water and medical supplies.

Aid groups such as Oxfam and Save the Children Philippines, which both have experience in Philippine disaster relief efforts, were also preparing to provide assistance.

Rhona Daoang, a spokeswoman for the Ilocos Norte provincial government, said it was taking measures to prevent widespread loss of life.

Officials were distributing rice and drinking water to residents ahead of the storm and encouraging them to fortify their homes or evacuate. The province expects about 5,000 people to take refuge in shelters.

The province also set up eight shelters for cows, goats and other livestock so farmers would not have to face the choice of leaving them behind or staying and jeopardizing their own safety.

The governor of the province, Imee R. Marcos, temporarily outlawed drinking while the typhoon threat looms. During a heavy storm last month, one man who was drunk drowned.

“The governor also declared a liquor ban so that we could minimize the casualties,” Ms. Daoang said. “Some don’t like it, but some agree.”

Sol Vanzi contributed reporting.


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