MANILA, Philippines – A tropical storm barreling toward the northern Philippines on Friday intensified into a typhoon with destructive winds and rain threatening farmland and populated areas, including the capital, Manila.
Typhoon Nari forced U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to call off a trip Friday to the Philippines. Kerry, who was visiting Southeast Asia for regional summits, said in Brunei on Thursday he was advised by his pilots to postpone the trip.
Authorities placed 14 provinces and metropolitan Manila under storm alert, closed schools and put emergency services on notice.
The typhoon was forecast to slam ashore in northeastern Aurora province late Friday or early Saturday with winds of 120 kilometers (74 miles) per hour and gusts of up to 150 kph (93 mph). Rainfall is likely to exceed 100 to 200 millimeters (4 to 8 inches) with up to 300 mm (12 inches) in mountainous areas — about a month's average in 24 hours.
The national disaster agency said it was ready to evacuate thousands of residents from coastal towns.
Aurora Gov. Gerardo Noveras said mayors were busy calling on people living along rivers to seek shelter and stock up on relief goods, including rice and canned food.
After hitting land, Nari is expected to pound the mountains and rice-growing plains of central Luzon Island and exit into the South China Sea, heading for Vietnam early next week.
The center of the typhoon is forecast to pass just north of Manila, dumping more rain in the sprawling capital. Manila has been hit hard by floods because of poor infrastructure and clogged drainage and water canals — most of them blocked by densely populated slums — that are supposed to channel excess water into the sea.
During the rainy season, which can last from June to December, the Philippines gets lashed by about 20-22 storms a year.
About 30 people died last month in flash floods triggered by monsoon rains. Another 20 died this past week alone, most of them in the southern Philippines.
Associated Press writer Oliver Teves contributed to this report.