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Strong storm heads for Philippines; thousands flee

MANILA, Philippines — The strongest typhoon to hit the Philippines in recent years slammed ashore today in the northeast, where thousands of villagers fled to safety amid massive emergency preparations.

Millions of residents and rice farmers along the typhoon's path were warned of pounding rains and fierce wind that could significantly damage agriculture, homes, power and communications.

Typhoon Megi had sustained winds of 140 mph and gusts of 162 mph and made landfall in Isabela province today.

With its ferocious wind and heavy rainfall, Megi became the most powerful typhoon to hit the country in four years, government forecasters say. A 2006 howler with 155 mph winds set off mudslides that buried entire villages, killing about 1,000 people.

Weather officials issued the highest of a four-tier public storm alert for the two coastal provinces of Isabela and Cagayan and three mountain provinces where the typhoon was expected to pass before exiting the main northern island of Luzon into the South China Sea.

China and Vietnam were on alert ahead of the storm.

More than 3,000 people in coastal areas moved to school buildings and town halls that were turned into evacuation centers. Classes were canceled, and officials advised families to have one person stay awake overnight for any contingency. Ships and fishing vessels were told to stay in ports, and flights were canceled.

Strong storm heads for Philippines; thousands flee 10/17/10 [Last modified: Monday, October 18, 2010 1:52am]

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