Powerful typhoon slams into Philippines, spoil Christmas festivities

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MANILA: A powerful typhoon slammed into the eastern Philippines on Christmas Day, spoiling the biggest holiday in Asia’s largest Catholic nation, where a governor offered roast pig to entice villagers to abandon family celebrations for emergency shelters. Typhoon Nock-Ten was packing maximum sustained winds of 185 kilometers (114 miles) per hour and gusts of up to 255 kph (158 mph) when it made landfall yesterday night in Catanduanes province, where fierce winds and rain knocked down the island’s power and communications, weather forecasters said. There were no immediate reports of injuries. After Catanduanes, the typhoon, which had a 500-kilometer (300-mile) rain band, was expected to barge westward across the mountainous southern plank of the Philippines’ main island of Luzon and blow close to the capital, Manila, on Monday, before starting to exit toward the South China Sea. Nock-Ten may weaken after hitting the Sierra Madre mountain range in southern Luzon. Heavy rainfall, destructive winds and battering waves were threatening heavily populated rural and urban regions, where the Philippine weather agency raised typhoon warnings, stranding thousands of people in ports as airlines canceled flights and ferries were prevented from sailing. Officials warned of storm surges in coastal villages, flash floods and landslides, and asked villagers to evacuate to safer grounds. Christmas is the biggest holiday in the Philippines, which has Asia’s largest Roman Catholic population, making it difficult for officials to get people’s attention to heed the warnings. With many refusing to leave high-risk communities, some officials said they decided to carry out forced evacuations.–Agencies

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