MANILA - Farmers in Cagayan and Isabela, 2 of the country's top rice and corn producing provinces, are rushing to reap their harvests as Typhoon Mangkhut roared closer to northern Luzon, local officials said Wednesday.
Mangkhut will enter the Philippine area of responsibility before noon and lash large swaths of the country with intense rains later this week, state weather bureau PAGASA earlier said.
Cagayan, which is expected to bear the brunt of the typhoon's onslaught, has harvested less than 10 percent of produce from 130,000 hectares of rice fields, said Governor Manuel Mamba.
The harvest was not supposed to start until the end of the month, he told radio DZMM.
Farmers in Isabela, the country's top corn producer and the second in rice production, were also directed to start harvesting crops earlier this week, said provincial disaster officer Edmond De Guzman.
Most of their harvest, he said, usually go to Metro Manila and other provinces.
Both Isabela and Cagayan have set up evacuation centers, said De Guzman and Mamba.
Cagayan officials are on the lookout for possible flooding and storm surges in coastal areas and riverside communities, said its governor.
"Nagpi-prepare po kami (we are preparing) for the worst. We are praying for the best for our province," Mamba said.
Isabela, meanwhile, has imposed a liquor ban until after Mangkhut's onslaught, De Guzman said.
Mangkhut was 1,390 kilometers east of Southern Luzon at 3 a.m., packing 200 kph maximum sustained winds and 245 kph gusts, said PAGASA.
The weather agency classifies a tropical cyclone with 220 kph top sustained winds as a super typhoon.
The US Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) earlier said Mangkhut has intensified into a supertyphoon under its own classification , based on 1-minute instrumental readings.
PAGASA has lower figures, because it uses 10-minute readings similar to the standard used by the Japan Meteorological Agency.
Mangkhut was moving west at 20 kph. Its speed went down from 35 kph on Tuesday due to a nearby high pressure area, PAGASA meteorologist Ezra Bulquerin said in a DZMM interview.
Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon and Bicol regions are expected to be placed under Tropical Cyclone Warning Signal No. 1 late Wednesday, he said.
Areas under this signal may be whipped with 30 - 60 kph winds within 36 hours, according to the weather agency.
Palawan, Western Visayas and the Zamboanga peninsula , meanwhile, will experience cloudy skies with scattered rains due to the habagat or southwest monsoon, which Mangkhut will enhance, said Bulquerin.
The typhoon will be named Ompong when it enters the Philippine area of responsibility on Wednesday morning, he said.
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