Typhoon "Frank" (international codename Fengshen) smashed into the country’s third largest island Friday packing winds of 140 kilometers (87 miles) an hour as residents braced for flooding, landslides and big waves.
There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage as the storm scythed northwest across Samar, an impoverished island of 1.5 million people.
The country’s weather bureau, Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services (PAGASA) said in its 11 p.m. bulletin the typhoon’s eye was located 50 kilometers southeast of Masbate island.
PAGASA said typhoon "Frank" has maximum sustained winds of 140 kilometers per hour near the center and gustiness of up to 170 kph.
The typhoon was expected to hit the Bicol peninsula on Luzon's southeastern tip on Saturday, and could then hit the Luzon heartland on Sunday.
PAGASA said the typhoon was moving west northwest at 19 kph. It expects the typhoon to cross Masbate then traverse the inland waters of Southern Luzon Friday night.
It forecast the storm to be 60 kilometers northeast of Metro Manila by Saturday evening.
By Sunday evening the typhoon is expected to be 30 kilometers south of Laoag City. The weather bureau expects the storm on Monday evening to be 110 kilometers northwest of Basco, Batanes.
Public Storm Signal No. 3 is hoisted over Masbate, Sorsogon, Albay, Burias Island, Catanduanes, Camarines Provinces, Southern Quezon, Marinduque, Romblon, Oriental Mindoro, Samar Provinces, Leyte, Biliran Island, Capiz, Aklan and Northern Antique.
Public Storm Signal No. 2 is hoisted over Cuyo Island, Calamian Group, Occidental Mindoro, Batangas, Cavite, Laguna, Bulacan, Rest of Quezon, Rizal, Metro Manila, Southern Leyte, Northern Cebu, Northern Negros Occidental, Iloilo and the rest of Antique.
PAGASA also said that Public Storm Signal No. 1 is hoisted over Nueva Viscaya, Quirino, Aurora, Nueva Ecija, Pangasinan, Tarlac, Pampanga, Zambales, Northern Palawan, Lubang Island, rest of Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental, Siquijor Island, rest of Cebu, Bohol and Dinagat island.
The weather bureau, which upgraded "Frank" from a tropical storm on Friday, advised residents in low-lying areas and near mountain slopes to take all the necessary precautions against possible flashfloods and landslides. Likewise, those living in coastal areas under signal 2 and 3 are alerted against big waves or storm surges generated by this typhoon.
Stranded in ports
The National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) in its 6 p.m. report Friday on the effects of the typhoon said that a total of 617 persons were stranded in various ports of the Bicol region as the Philippine Coast Guard suspended ferry services due to inclement weather.
In Central Visayas, four persons who went fishing were reported missing in Getate town in Bohol. A minor landslide was also reported by the NDCC to have occurred in Talisay City affecting the riprap of Manipis Elementary School.
Power failure was reported in the following provinces - Northern Samar - 3 p.m.; Eastern Samar - 8 a.m. and Samar - 4:30 p.m, reported NDCC.
Albay provincial officials on Friday called on residents living near Mayon Volcano or in mountain slopes as well as in coastal areas to evacuate due to the typhoon.
The province has already been placed under Storm Signal Number 3 by PAGASA. The powerful typhoon is expected to hit the province early Saturday morning.
The pre-emptive evacuation, ordered by Albay Gov. Joey Salceda, have already resulted in 23,086 families or 117,963 persons going to evacuation centers across the province.
"We are doing pre-emptive evacuation of 176,802 persons due to risk of lahar, landslide and floods" earlier said Albay Gov. Joey Salceda.
President Arroyo, who has been visiting the south, called off a visit to Panay island and had her plane diverted back to Davao City, presidential spokesman Secretary Jesus Dureza told reporters.
She urged local governments to prepare for the storm that could trigger flooding and landslides.
Arroyo has ordered that warnings be issued to all provinces along the typhoon's expected path, and for local governments to prepare for contingencies, senior aide Dr. Anthony Golez said in a statement.
The Armed Forces were also on "alert in order to support evacuation activities of local government units if needed," Golez said, while the social welfare department was beefing up its relief stockpiles.
Hundreds of people die in the Philippines every year due to floods and landslides caused by tropical storms or typhoons that sweep in mainly from the Pacific. With a report from Agence France-Presse