A tropical storm barrelling toward the northern Philippines on Friday intensified into a typhoon with destructive winds and flooding rains threatening farmlands and populated areas, including the capital Manila.
Typhoon Nari forced US Secretary of State John Kerry to call off Friday's trip 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 is forecast to slam ashore in northeastern Aurora province later Friday or early Saturday with winds of 120 kilometres per hour and gusts of up to 150 kph. Rainfall will exceed 100 to 200 millimetres with up to 300 mm 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 that 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 expect 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 centre 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 every 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.