The Philippines is urging tourists to take precautions or cut short Easter vacations, and may evacuate thousands of people in the path of approaching Typhoon Maysak.
The storm may affect as many as a million people, the United Nation’s Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System said Thursday, downgrading the potential humanitarian impact to medium from high.
The Philippines’ weather bureau forecasts landfall in the provinces of Aurora or Isabela in northern Luzon on either Saturday night or Sunday morning. Local governments in more than 650 municipalities on Luzon, the nation’s largest island, are coordinating with resort owners to ensure the safety of visitors, Austere Panadero, undersecretary for local government, said at a televised briefing.
“Maybe they can consider getting out as early as tomorrow before the typhoon hits them; that would be the most desirable action,” Panadero said. “If they are there already and they can’t change their plans, they should make necessary preparations.”
The government has alerted the public against possible flash-floods over low-lying areas and landslides along mountain slopes, particularly in the Aurora-Isabela area.
The surfing province of Baler, which is forecast to host 10,000 visitors this Easter, is among coastal areas at risk from gusts, said Alexander Pama, undersecretary of the civil defense agency.
“We’re watching the situation and, depending on our assessment, may make a recommendation later today,” Pama said by phone Thursday. “It’s just preparatory; the storm might even further weaken. Any signals to evacuate will come from local governments.”
Maysak weakened as it closed in on the country, according to the U.S. Navy’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center. Sustained winds are reaching 115 knots (213 kilometers per hour) with gusts of 140 knots.
The lowest level on a storm-warning scale of one-to-four will be raised in Bicol and Northern Samar provinces Thursday, Esperanza Cayanan, head of the government’s weather division, said at the briefing. Maysak is expected to weaken further once it hits land and crosses Luzon’s mountain ranges, she said, adding that the storm will exit the country on April 6.
The Philippines, battered by cyclones that form over the Pacific Ocean, is the second most-at-risk nation globally from tropical storms after Japan, according to research company Maplecroft.
The country was among the most-affected by weather-related events in 2013, with losses reaching $24.5 billion, or 3.8 percent of gross domestic product, according to environmental group Germanwatch. Super Typhoon Haiyan, the strongest storm in the world to hit land, killed more than 6,000 people in November 2013
Maysak is approaching the Philippines just as the weather bureau declared the start of the dry season. “Storm rains are most welcome as we need to fill our dams,” Cayanan said.