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‘Karen’ slams into Luzon today

The country faces what could be “the most damaging” tropical cyclone this year as typhoon “Karen” (international name “Sarika”) slams into the heavily populated main island of Luzon today, officials said yesterday.

Karen, packing maximum sustained winds of 130 kilometers per hour and gustiness of up to 180 kph, has knocked out all power and telephone lines in Catanduanes, the Office of Civil Defense said.

While the storm is not the most powerful to hit the country this year, it could cause the most damage as it will cross heavily-populated areas just north of Manila today, said government weather forecaster Benison Estareja.

“We can see from the radar that the storm is very destructive. It can destroy wooden houses, it can topple trees. It can possibly rip off roofs,” Estareja told AFP. “This could so far, be the most damaging typhoon this year,” Estareja said.

Tropical cyclone warnings were raised in more areas yesterday as Karen headed towards Aurora and threatened to bring heavy rains and strong winds in a big portion of Luzon today.

Estareja said Karen further intensified yesterday before its expected landfall today, now with maximum sustained winds of 130 kilometers per hour and gustiness of up to 180 kph and accelerated from 17 kph to 22 kph west-northwest.

As of 5 p.m. yesterday, Karen was 205 kilometers east of Infanta, Quezon.

Estareja said signal No. 3 was raised over Pangasinan, northern Zambales, Tarlac, Nueva Ecija, Aurora, northern Quezon, including Polilio Island, La Union, Benguet, Nueva Vizcaya, and Quirino These areas may experience winds of 121 to 170 kph in 18 hours and storm surges of up to two meters in its coastal areas.

Signal No. 2 was hoisted in Ilocos Sur, southern Isabela, Mountain Province, Ifugao, rest of Zambales, Pampanga, Bulacan, Bataan, Rizal, Metro Manila, rest of Quezon, Camarines Norte, and Catanduanes.

Areas under Signal No. 1 were Ilocos Norte, Abra, Kalinga, rest of Isabela, southern Apayao, southern Cagayan, Oriental Mindoro, Cavite, Batangas, Laguna, Marinduque, Camarines Sur, Albay, and Burias Island.

Estareja said Catanduanes, Albay, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Quezon, and parts of Aurora started to experience heavy rains and strong winds from Karen as early as yesterday morning. Rains over the Bicol region will weaken today but light rains will still prevail, he added.

Heavy rains and gusty winds will be felt over Aurora, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Benguet, Metro Manila, Bataan, and Tarlac by late Saturday or early Sunday.

Estareja said Karen is expected to make landfall over Aurora between 12 midnight and 2 a.m. today and will cross Central Luzon this morning.

Karen will exit the landmass of Luzon via Pangasinan this afternoon and will leave the country’s area of responsibility early tomorrow morning.

As Karen exits the country’s area of responsibility tomorrow morning, another tropical cyclone will enter the Philippines in the afternoon.

The tropical storm with international name “Haima” was 1,850 kms east of Mindanao, packing maximum winds of 65 kph and gustiness of up to 80 kph at around 5 p.m. yesterday. It is still outside the country’s area of responsibility.

Once inside the country’s vicinity tomorrow afternoon, Haima will be given a local name of “Lawin.”
(AFP and Ellalyn B. de Vera)