'Henry' gains strength, PH raises storm warnings

By Manny Mogato, Reuters

Posted at Jul 22 2014 11:35 AM | Updated as of Jul 22 2014 09:09 PM

MANILA (UPDATE) - The Philippines raised storm alert levels on Tuesday as Typhoon Henry (international codename Matmo) threatened to drench the extreme north of the main island of Luzon with heavy rain as it churned toward Taiwan and mainland China.

As of 10 a.m, the typhoon was packing sustained winds of 140 kph and gusts of up to 170 kph. Henry was moving at 24 kph northwest towards central Taiwan.

Weather bureau PAGASA said the typhoon is expected to be outside the Philippine area of responsibility by Wednesday morning.

Storm Warning Signal number 2 was raised in the Batanes, where 7.5 to 15 mm per hour of rainfall was expected on Tuesday. The typhoon was also expected to bring rain to other parts of Luzon.

Storm Warning Signal number 1 was raised in Cagayan including Babuyan and Calayan Group of Islands.

Retired Admiral Alexander Pama, executive director of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, said the government had suspended sea travel and prevented small fishing boats from venturing into the area.

"We do not expect the typhoon to make landfall anywhere in the country but we are still advising our people in the smaller islands in northern Luzon to take extra precautions," Pama said.

"We continue to track the typhoon and we expect it to exit the Philippine area of responsibility on Wednesday afternoon."

Henry came days after super Typhoon Glenda (international codename Rammasun) killed nearly 100 people and destroyed 7.3 billion pesos ($168.46 million) of crops and infrastructure.

Wide areas of the southern half of Luzon remain without power after the storm toppled transmission lines and electric poles.

Nearly 600 people were stranded in three ports in northern Luzon after 11 ferries suspended service until the storm passes. At least 10 domestic flights were also cancelled. Schools were closed in northern Luzon.

Typhoons are common at this time of year in the South China Sea, picking up strength from the warm waters and dissipating over land.