MANILA, Philippines – President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo ordered the evacuation of thousands of people in the eastern Philippines ahead of a powerful tropical storm, officials said Wednesday.
In one province alone, officials estimated that up to 200,000 people would be evacuated to gymnasiums, churches and schools by Friday when Tropical Storm Mitag was forecast to make landfall.
And in Vietnam, the government said Tropical Storm Hagibis was expected to hit the country's southern region Saturday.
Mitag could became a "super typhoon" with winds of more than 138 mph by the time it hits land in the Philippines, chief government forecaster Nathaniel Cruz said.
"It's still far, and that means we still have time to conduct preparedness," Cruz said. "With two days in the open sea, it has a big potential to become a very strong typhoon."
Recent rains have saturated the ground around Mayon volcano in Bicol, and the president was worried there could be a repeat of last year's landslides and flash floods that killed more than 1,000 people, said Anthony Golez, deputy director of the Office of Civil Defense.
Gov. Joey Salceda of Albay, where last year's Typhoon Durian unleashed tons of volcanic debris that wiped out entire villages, said some schools will be used as temporary shelters.
The same communities devastated last year were again flooded Wednesday. A wooden bridge connecting two villages in Daraga township was washed away, local officials said.
Evacuations also were reported from the provincial capital of Legazpi and nearby Daraga township, Cedric Daep, executive officer of the Albay disaster office, told The Associated Press.
He said many residents were terrified after the devastation last time.
"If we don't prepare now, they will be more scared," he said.
In neighboring Sorsogon province, radio announcements advised officials, community leaders and the public to prepare to evacuate, provincial disaster officer Noel Pura said.