Thousands flee powerful typhoon

Thousands of villagers are being evacuated as one of Asia’s most powerful typhoons this year approaches the Philippines.

The refugees include many from a central province devastated recently by an earthquake.

Typhoon Haiyan is already packing sustained winds of 134mph and gusts of 155mph, and could pick up strength over the Pacific Ocean before it slams into the eastern province of Eastern Samar, according to government forecasters.

Eduardo del Rosario, who heads the government’s main disaster response agency, said governors and mayors are supervising the evacuation of thousands of residents away from landslide and flood-prone communities in several provinces where the typhoon is expected to pass.

President Benigno Aquino III has ordered officials to aim for zero casualties, a goal often broken in an archipelago lashed by about 20 storms each year, most of them deadly and destructive.

Haiyan is the 24th such storm to hit the Philippines this year.

Bohol governor Edgardo Chatto said soldiers, police and rescue units are helping displaced residents, including thousands still in small tents after the earthquake, to move to safer shelters.

The typhoon is not forecast to directly hit Bohol but the province is still expected to be lashed by strong wind and rain, government forecaster Jori Loiz said.

Army troops are helping transport food packs and other relief goods in hard-to-reach communities and rescue helicopters are on stand-by, the military said.

Haiyan is forecast to barrel through the country’s central region tomorrow and Saturday before it blows towards the South China Sea on Sunday.

It is not expected to hit the densely populated capital, Manila, in the north.

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