Typhoon Nock-ten strands thousands in Philippines

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MANILA, Philippines — Super Typhoon Nock-ten has left more than 11,000 travelers stranded after roaring into the Philippines and forcing the closure of ports in the Southeast Asian country.

The typhoon, known locally as Nina, made landfall over Bato in the province of Catanduanes at 8 p.m. local time (7 a.m. ET) on Christmas day.

Authorities rushed to evacuate thousands of residents from low-lying areas of the eastern Philippines ahead of Nock-ten’s arrival and the provinces of Catanduanes and Albay were declared under a “state of imminent danger/disaster.”

Some 11,476 passengers, more than 1,000 cargo ships and over a dozen other vessels were stranded in various ports in the region, the Philippines National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council reported Sunday.

Philippines Coast Guard spokesman Armand Balilo told CNN the storm had forced various ports to temporarily close. But he said travel was resuming in some parts and the number of stranded was expected to decrease in the coming hours.

Thousands evacuated

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said that as of 8 a.m local time on Monday, 77,560 families — 383,097 people — were in evacuation centers in Calabarzon, Mimaropa, Bicol and Easter Visayas.

However, Nock-ten is weakening as it passes over the Philippines.

CNN meteorologist Michael Guy said winds had dropped to 150 kph — equivalent to a Category 1 Atlantic Hurricane — gusting to 185 kph.

The storm was moving west at 28 kph and was forecast to further diminish in strength as it crossed the open water of the South China Sea towards Vietnam.

“The storm will continue to move towards central Vietnam as a weak disturbance by Wednesday producing heavy rainfall over that region. Some models are projecting upwards of 200 mm with locally heavier amounts near Quang Ngai, Vietnam,” he said. “This will not be welcome news for the Vietnam region which has suffered heavy flash flooding causing damage and fatalities over the past few months.”

In the Philippines, Nock-ten is expected to traverse the provinces of Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte, Southern Quezon, Laguna, Batangas and Cavite.

The Philippines’ tropical cyclone warning signal number 4 was earlier hoisted for Catanduanes and neighboring Camarines Sur. The warning signal, the second-highest level on the scale of alerts, indicates the storm could cause “heavy damage” to high-risk structures. Rice, corn and coconut plantations will likely suffer severe losses.

A storm surge height of up to 2.5 meters is possible over the coastal areas of Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte, Albay, Sorsogon and Catanduanes, according to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA).

PAGASA reported that the typhoon would cause moderate to heavy rainfall in a 500-kilometer (311-mile) radius.

There were fears that Nock-ten could potentially bring flooding to the capital, Manila — one of the most densely populated urban centers of the country.

Meantime, hospitals throughout the Philippines — private and public — are under a “code white alert,” meaning leave has been canceled for surgeons, emergency room staff and thosespecializing in trauma and injury,” Department of Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial said.

The Philippines has been battered by devastating typhoons in recent years, most notably Typhoon Haiyan in 2013 — considered to be among the strongest storms to make landfall. Haiyan killed more than 6,000 people and forced nearly 4 million people from their homes.

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