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Super typhoon 'Odette' prompts strong warnings vs winds, torrential rains

Satellite image of Super Typhoon “Odette” (Usagi) at 12:32 a.m. Sept. 21, 2013. DOST-PAGASA
The online news portal of TV5

MANILA - Super typhoon “Odette,” billed as the strongest typhoon to hit the Asia Pacific this year, maintained its strength Friday afternoon as it continued to barrel toward extreme northern Luzon, prompting Signal No. 4 to be raised in some areas, and the weather agency to issue strict warnings about the potential destruction from its strong winds.

It is expected to make landfall at or very near Batanes Saturday morning.

Though far from Metro Manila, it is seen to spawn rains in the National Capital Region and the rest of Luzon as it pulls the southwest monsoon, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said.

As of 10 p.m. Friday, it was tracked at 120 kilometers east of Basco, Batanes, packing maximum winds of 205 kph near the center and gustiness of up to 240 kph. It is forecast to move west northwest at 19 kph.

A super typhoon is the most intense tropical cyclone, with a maximum sustained wind speed reaching 185 kph or above.

Signal No. 4 has been imposed over the Batanes Group of Islands and Signal No. 3 over the Calayan and Babuyan Group of Islands, while other provinces are experiencing lesser signals.

Two die as banca capsizes

Meanwhile, a motor banca capsized off Dingalan, Aurora, killing two persons and leaving two others missing. Three others were rescued, the Coast Guard said.

The fatalities were identified as Alejandro Abalos, 42; and Kim Manuel, 21. The missing were Gelly Abalos, 21 and Leonida Abalos, 45, of Cabanatuan City, according to a report of DZMM.

“[The typhoon] is expected to be outside the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR) at 270 km west of Basco, Batanes or 150 km southwest of southern Taiwan by Saturday evening,” PAGASA said.

The wind strength of more than 185 kph being experienced in Batanes is expected to last at least 12 hours, and authorities said this could damage coconut plantation, uproot large trees, inflict severe losses to rice and corn plantations, severely damage residential and institutional buildings of mixed construction, and topple electrical power distribution and communication services.

“In the overall, damage to affected communities can be very heavy. The situation is potentially very destructive to communities. All travel and outdoor activities should be cancelled. Evacuation to much safer shelters should have been completed earlier since it may be too late under this situation,” PAGASA advised.

In Calayan and Babuyan, currently under Signal No. 3, the wind strength is expected to be 101-185 kph and will last for at least 18 hours. This may spell heavy damage to agriculture; some large trees uprooted; majority of nipa and cogon houses unroofed or destroyed, considerable damage to structures of light to medium construction; moderate to heavy disruption of electrical power and communication services; and travel by land, sea and air is dangerous.

Cagayan, Apayao and Ilocos Norte are under Signal No. 2. Winds of 61-100 kph are expected in at least 24 hours.

Under Signal No. 1 -- with winds of 30-60 kph -- are Abra, Kalinga, Isabela, Northern Aurora, Quirino, Nueva Vizcaya, Benguet, La Union, Ilocos Sur, Mountain Province, and Ifugao. 

PAGASA alerted residents in low-lying and mountainous areas against possible flashfloods and landslides. Likewise, those living in coastal areas under signal 4, 3 and 2 are alerted against storm surges.

Meanwhile, Odette will continue to enhance the Southwest Monsoon that will bring moderate to occasionally heavy rains and thunderstorms over Metro Manila, the rest of Luzon and Western Visayas, said PAGASA.

The estimated amount of rainfall is from 10-20 mm per hour (heavy-intense) within the 900 km diameter of the super typhoon. 

"Residents in these areas are advised to be alert against flashfloods and landslides,” it added.

On path of destruction

Super Typhoon Usagi (Odette's international name) is one of the strongest storms of the year. The storm is projected to roar between the Philippines and Taiwan before smashing into the southern Chinese coast later in the weekend.

"It is the strongest typhoon in the west Pacific region this year," a weather forecaster at the Taiwan Central Weather Bureau told AFP.

Hong Kong officials warned of worsening weather in the southern Chinese territory.

The typhoon is expected to be downgraded to "severe" by the time it makes landfall in the territory, according to the observatory.

Typhoon Usagi is set to brush the southern tip of Taiwan on Saturday morning, expected to bring fierce winds and torrential rains, possibly leading to landslides.

The Taiwan weather bureau issued a warning to the residents of Taitung, Kaohsiung and the Pingtung areas to take special precautions, as television news footage showed people surfing on waves whipped up by Usagi.

Officials in southeastern Taitung county ordered the suspension of ferries.

And authorities in the southern city of Kaohsiung deflated an 18-meter-tall (60 feet) yellow duck, a slightly larger version of the one that recently captivated people in Hong Kong, a day after it arrived in the city, drawing tens of thousands of visitors.

Mainland Chinese weather authorities have issued a "yellow" alert, state media reported, the third-highest on its four-tier warning system, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

China's State Oceanic Administration expects Usagi to hit the coast between south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region and southeastern Fujian Province on Sunday evening.