MANILA, Philippines — A powerful typhoon blew closer to the northern Philippines on Tuesday, forcing thousands to evacuate and halting sea travel amid warnings of torrential rains and tidal surges up to 3 meters (nearly 10 feet).
The strongest winds at the storm’s center are expected to remain offshore as Typhoon Doksuri barrels northwest off Cagayan and Batanes provinces, but they may slam into or pass close to Cagayan’s outlying Babuyan Islands in the Luzon Strait, which has been placed under the highest of a five-step cyclonic wind warning system, forecasters said.
Under alert level five, “the situation is potentially very destructive to the community,” the weather bureau said, and warned the ferocious winds pose “extreme threat to life and property.”
The typhoon’s 680-kilometer (420-mile) -wide rainband could cause flash floods and set off landslides in mountainous northern provinces, the weather bureau said.
Doksuri was last tracked 190 kilometers (118 miles) east of Aparri town in Cagayan province with sustained winds of 185 kilometers (115 miles) per hour and gusts of up to 230 kph (143 mph), government forecasters said.
The typhoon would also enhance seasonal monsoon rains in central and northern provinces. It was forecast to continue moving northwest on a track south of Taiwan that would make landfall in China later this week.
Cagayan Gov. Manuel Mamba said he suspended work in his province to allow people to prepare for the onslaught and ordered the evacuation of thousands of people in 11 coastal towns as a precaution.
“This is a supertyphoon and we’re carrying out preemptive evacuations in all coastal villages because we’re afraid of storm surges,” Mamba told The Associated Press by telephone, adding weather forecasters warned that tidal surges could reach a height of up to 3 meters (nearly 10 feet).
Aside from work, Mamba said classes in colleges were also suspended from Tuesday to Wednesday. Grade and high school students were on vacation, he said.
Tuguegarao City Mayor Maila Ting-Que urged the public to be vigilant and imposed a liquor ban, warning violators of arrests. Fishers were barred from venturing in the increasingly rough seas.
More than 11,000 inter-island ferry passengers and cargo truck drivers, along with 100 passenger and cargo vessels and motor bancas, were stranded in several ports where a no-sail order was imposed due to the typhoon and enhanced monsoon rains, the Philippine coast guard said.
In Taiwan, part of the annual Han Kuang military exercises were canceled Tuesday.
An exercise meant to simulate the use of a civilian airport in case of bombed-out military runways was canceled as it was located on the southeastern coast of Taiwan, where waves were already rising. At Taiwan’s southernmost point, waves had already risen to as much as 2.5 meters (8 feet), according to Taiwan’s Central Weather Bureau.
The Han Kuang exercises are the largest annual exercises aimed at displaying the Taiwan military’s defense capabilities in case of an attack from China, which claims the self-ruled territory as its own. Land-based exercises for the Han Kuang drills are still ongoing in other parts of Taiwan.
AP reporter Huizhong Wu contributed from Taipei, Taiwan.