MANILA, Philippines — A strong typhoon off the Philippines’ mountainous north forced authorities to close schools in the capital for a second day Thursday as disaster-response teams braced for possible floods and landslides.
Typhoon “Egay” (international codename: Sepat) was roaring over the Pacific Ocean about 500 kilometers (310 miles) east of northern Luzon island with sustained winds of 185 kilometers (115 miles) per hour and gusts of up to 220 kph (137 mph), the strongest storm to threaten the country this year, forecasters said.
“Egay” could pick up energy as it moves over the ocean and turn into a super typhoon — a storm with sustained winds of 215 kph (134 mph), government forecaster Lucrecio About said.
“It can wash out everything not made of cement or steel with that wind,” About said.
Blowing northwestward at 15 kph (9 mph), “Egay” was expected to pass near the northernmost province of Batanes on Saturday before churning toward southern Taiwan and mainland China.
Typhoon alerts were raised in the northern provinces of Catanduanes, Cagayan, and Isabela, where fishermen were warned not to venture out to sea in small craft.
Several roads in Pampanga and Aurora provinces are impassable to all types of vehicles due to floods, the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) said Thursday.
Affected roads include the portion of the Candaba-San Miguel Road in Paralaya and Mangumbali villages in Candaba town, the portion of the Baliuag-Candaba-Sta. Ana Road in San Agustin, Paligui, and Pasig in the same town.
In Aurora province, the portion of the Nueva Ecija-Aurora Road in Villa village, Maria Aurora town, is impassable to all types of vehicles, the NDCC said.
Classes at all levels remain suspended on Thursday in Metropolitan Manila, and the provinces of Bataan, Rizal, Laguna, Cavite, and Batangas.
Many parts of the metropolis were also flooded on Wednesday, causing monstrous traffic jams and forcing authorities to suspend classes and government work.
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s convoy was caught in a “nightmarish” traffic jam in the Makati financial district, causing her to be an hour late for a Wednesday morning event, her office said in a statement.
Also Wednesday, Hollywood director Quentin Tarantino was forced to abandon his limousine, which got stuck in Manila traffic for about 2 1/2 hours, and hop into a “pedicab” bicycle taxi as he scrambled to reach the presidential palace to receive a film award at a separate event.
Tarantino is known for his films “Pulp Fiction” and “Kill Bill.”
More than 220 people were evacuated Wednesday by army troops and firefighters from their flooded homes, mostly in the capital area’s flood-prone suburban cities of Marikina, Malabon and San Juan, the National Disaster Coordination Council said.
There were no immediate reports of injuries from the fifth serious storm to hit the country this year.
Back-to-back storms set off landslides and inundated many agricultural regions of Luzon last week, killing at least eight people, according to the government’s Office of Civil Defense.