MANILA—Typhoon Odette (international name Rai) is now a super typhoon, the US military weather agency said Thursday.
It is currently packing 140 knots (259 kilometers per hour) maximum sustained winds and gusts reaching 170 knots (314 kph), according to the US Navy and Air Force's Joint Typhoon Warning Center in Hawaii.
The US JTWC classifies typhoons with wind speeds of at least 130 knots, which are equivalent to a Category 4 storm in the Saffir-Simpson scale—as super typhoons. Its readings are based on 1-minute average measurements of sustained winds.
This is different from the tropical cyclone intensity scale used by the Philippine state weather bureau PAGASA, which makes readings based on 10-minute average measurements of sustained winds.
As a result, the US JTWC's wind readings are higher than PAGASA's measurements.
"[Typhoon Rai] has undergone a period of extremely rapid intensification, which was not previously forecast and while track has not significantly changed, the intensity forecast has been increased dramatically," the JTWC said.
In its 8 a.m. advisory, PAGASA said Odette has undergone a rapid intensification as it continues to approach the vicinity of Dinagat Islands and Siargao-Bucas Grande Islands.
The center of the eye of the typhoon was located 265 kilometers east of Surigao City, Surigao del Norte, the agency said.
Tens of thousands of people have been evacuated from coastal areas of the central and southern Philippines ahead of a strong typhoon that is expected to make landfall on Thursday afternoon.
Nearly 30,000 residents in Eastern Samar province, one of the hardest hit by super typhoon Haiyan in 2013, have been evacuated from their homes in the past 2 days, Governor Ben Evardone told DZMM radio station.
"We are getting pounded already by strong wind and rain," Evardone said.
The southern province of Surigao del Sur has already started to feel the force of the storm.
Airlines cancelled dozens of flights, while transport authorities banned sea and land travel in the central and southern Philippines, leaving thousands stranded at ports.
The Southeast Asian nation postponed the start of a mass vaccination drive in most parts of the country because of the storm.
The Philippines, an archipelago of more than 7,600 islands, sees around 20 tropical storms annually, causing floods and landslides.
—With a report from Reuters