Typhoon Melor intensifies, threatens central Philippines

MANILA (Reuters) - Authorities shut schools and suspended fishing and ferry services in the central Philippines on Monday as a category 3 typhoon barreled along the eastern seaboard, dumping heavy rains that could cause flooding and landslides.

The weather bureau said typhoon Melor, known locally as Nona, was about 205 km (130 miles) east of Samar island and had intensified from a category 2 storm overnight, with winds of up to 150 kph (95 mph) at its center.

It was plotting a similar path to Haiyan, a category 5 typhoon that struck the central Philippines in 2013. Almost 8,000 people were killed or left missing by Haiyan.

Melor was expected to make landfall on Monday night in Sorsogon province at the southeastern tip of the main island of Luzon. Disaster authorities have temporarily closed schools and some offices and have started evacuations.

About 8,000 people were stranded in ports after the coast guard stopped all ferry services and fishing in the central Philippines.

“Melor is a very compact typhoon, so that will prevent its most devastating impacts from extending too far from its center,” said AccuWeather meteorologist Adam Douty.

He said the typhoon had weakened a little as it encountered drier air early on Monday. “While Melor will not slam onshore as a super typhoon as once feared, it still poses dangers to lives and property,” Douty said.

Alexander Pama, executive director of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, said typhoon Melor was expected to cause flooding, landslides and storm surges of up to 4 meters (13 feet) and disrupt power and communications.

About 20 provinces, including around the capital, Manila, are under public storm alert due to strong winds and torrential rains of up to 300 mm (12 inches) within a 300 km (185 miles) radius.

About 20 major typhoons pass through the Philippines each year.

Reporting by Manuel Mogato; Editing by Paul Tait