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Powerful typhoon heading north of the Philippines strengthens

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MANILA, Philippines (AP) — A powerful typhoon changed direction and abruptly gained strength in an “explosive intensification” Sunday as it approached the northeastern Philippines, prompting evacuations from high-risk villages and even the capital, that could be hit by the storm, officials said. .

Typhoon Noru was swirling in the sea about 115 kilometers (71 miles) east of the city of Infanta in Quezon province with sustained winds of 195 kilometers (121 miles per hour) and gusts of up to 240 kph (149 mph). in mid afternoon. Forecasters expect it to crash into the coast later on Sunday.

While blowing toward the archipelago, Noru drifted south as it was pushed down by an area of ​​high pressure to the north. It gained considerable strength, transforming from a storm that had sustained winds of 85 kph (53 mph) on Saturday to a super typhoon just 24 hours later in “explosive intensification” at sea, said Vicente Malano, who heads the meteorological agency of the country, to The New York Times. Associated Press.

Thousands of villagers were evacuated, some forcibly, from the path of the typhoon, as well as from villages on slopes prone to landslides and flash floods and in coastal communities that could be affected by storm surges of up to 3 meters (about 10 feet). ) in Quezon province. , including the island of Polillo and the nearby province of Aurora.

“The combined effects of storm surge and high waves breaking along the coast can cause life-threatening and damaging flooding or flooding,” the weather agency warned.

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Melchor Avenilla Jr., who heads Quezon’s disaster response office, said law enforcement had orders to forcibly remove people who refused to leave their homes.

“But so far we’ve been able to do this just by appealing to the people,” Avenilla told The AP by phone from Quezon.

Several provinces and cities, including the densely populated capital Manila, suspended classes and government work on Sunday and Monday. The eye of the typhoon could pass within 40 to 50 kilometers (25 to 30 miles) of the Manila metropolis, “which is almost a direct hit,” Malano said.

Fishing boats and inter-island and cargo ferries were restricted to the port as a precaution, the coast guard said, stranding cargo trucks and more than 2,500 passengers in provinces expected to be affected by the typhoon.

More than 30 flights were canceled at the Manila airport, mostly to domestic destinations.

The typhoon is forecast to cross the main island of Luzon overnight before starting to blow into the South China Sea on Monday, forecasters said.

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About 20 storms and typhoons hit the Philippines every year. The archipelago also sits on the “Pacific Ring of Fire,” a region along most of the Pacific Ocean rim where many volcanic eruptions and earthquakes occur, making the Southeast Asian nation one of the most disaster-prone in the world.

In 2013, Typhoon Haiyan, one of the world’s strongest tropical cyclones on record, left more than 7,300 people dead or missing, flattened entire towns, swept boats inland and displaced more than 5 million in the central Philippines, very south of Norway. path.

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