BATO, Camarines Sur – (UPDATE) Coastal villagers wrapped religious icons in plastic and packed clothes and blankets as Typhoon Nina (international name: Nock-Ten) was set to slam Luzon on Christmas Day.
Thousands were told to move to safer ground as Nina barreled towards Catanduanes island with up to 255-kilometer wind gusts on Sunday evening before crossing Southern Luzon. The storm is expected to bring rains within its 500-kilometer radius, which includes parts of Central Luzon and Metro Manila.
“Bantayan po natin, mukhang kagabi kulang sa tulog. Huwag po tayong kumpiyansa dahil sa lakas ng bagyo at hangin ni Nina,” said Vicente Malano, officer-in-charge of state weather bureau PAGASA.
(Let’s keep watch, even if we all lack sleep. We should not be complacent because Nina is a powerful typhoon with strong winds.)
Catanduanes Vice Governor Shirley Abundo 12,108 people have fled to safer ground and the number was expected to rise.
"While we still have time to evacuate, please, please evacuate now," Abundo appealed to residents of the province in an interview with ANC.
Nina strengthened overnight as Filipinos gathered for the traditional Noche Buena. The storm packed maximum sustained winds of 185 kph with gusts of up to 255 kph and was spotted 110 km east of Virac, Catanduanes at 1 p.m.
Cold air blowing from the north and interaction with the Sierra Madre mountain rainge is expected to weaken Nina after landfall, said weather forecaster Rene Paciente.
The eye of the storm will be nearest Metro Manila at around 2 p.m. Monday, he said.
“Malakas po ang bagyo, kaya po nito gibain ang mga bahay-bahay na hindi matibay,” he said.
(This is a strong typhoon. It can destroy houses that are poorly-built.)
The Philippines is battered by an average of 20 typhoons every year, with the strongest ones hitting land towards the end of the year. But Christmas Day storms are rare.
In 2014, more than 50 people were killed when Typhoon Seniang (international name: Jangmi) slammed the Visayas during the New Year's Eve weekend, catching many unprepared.
The second highest wind speed warning, signal number 4, was raised over Catanduanes and Camarines Sur, while signal number 3 was raised over Burias Island, Albay, Camarines Norte, and southern Quezon, Sorsogon and Marinduque.
Signal number 2 was raised over Metro Manila, Masbate including Ticao Island, Oriental Mindoro, Batangas, Laguna, rest of Quezon including Polillo, Romblon, Cavite, Rizal, Bulacan and northern Samar.
Signal number 1 was raised over Pangasinan, Nueva Ecija, Aurora, Quirino, Nueva Vizcaya, Zambales, Pampanga, Tarlac, Occidental Mindoro including Lubang Island, Calamian Group of Islands, Bataan, Aklan, Capiz, Samar, eastern Samar, Biliran, Leyte and Bantayan Island.
Nina is expected to make landfall over Catanduanes on Sunday night before crossing Albay, Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte, Southern Quezon, Laguna, Batangas, and Cavite. -- reports from Jessa Mylce Mella, ABS-CBN News