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Thousands flee as typhoon blows into Philippines

By The Associated Press

This article was published December 3, 2012 at 6:56 a.m.

— Thousands of villagers fled from their homes Monday as a strong typhoon roared closer to the southern Philippines, prompting authorities to suspend sea travel in high-risk areas and halt gold-mining in a mountain town notorious for deadly landslides.

President Benigno Aquino III appeared on nationwide TV to appeal to people in Typhoon Bopha’s path to move to safety and take storm warnings seriously even though many communities were still basking in sunny weather Monday.

“This typhoon is not a joke,” Aquino said after meeting top officials in charge of disaster-response.

“It could be the strongest to hit the country this year,” he said. “But we can minimize the damage and loss of lives if we help each other.”

The storm was approaching from the Pacific Ocean with sustained winds of 109 miles per hour and gusts of up to 130 mph. Its eye was last tracked at 242 miles southeast of Surigao del Sur province’s Hinatuan township, and the typhoon was expected to hit land around dawn Tuesday.

Bopha, which has a 373-mile-wide rain band, was expected to barrel across southern and central provinces before blowing out into the South China Sea on Thursday, according to government forecasters.

Aquino said army troops were deploying search and rescue boats in advance, and villagers were being preemptively evacuated.

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