Paul Cinco / AP Photo

Filipinos bracing for Typhoon Hagupit

Powerful, erratic storm is approaching the Philippines a year after Typhoon Haiyan left more than 7,300 dead

A wide swath of the Philippines, including the capital Manila, braced Friday for a dangerously erratic and powerful typhoon approaching from the Pacific, just a year after Typhoon Haiyan left more than 7,300 people dead.

Typhoon Hagupit strengthened overnight with its sustained winds intensifying to 134 miles per hour and gusts of 155 mph. The local weather agency PAGASA's forecast shows the typhoon may hit Eastern Samar province late Saturday or early Sunday.

But a forecast by the U.S. military's Joint Typhoon Warning Center in Hawaii said Hagupit (pronounced HA'-goo-pit) may veer northward after making landfall and possibly threaten Manila, which has population of more than 12 million people.

"We have alerted the people of Manila and we're ready," Mayor Joseph Estrada said, adding "these typhoons change direction all the time."

Still, Hagupit's erratic behavior prompted the government to call an emergency meeting of mayors of metropolitan Manila to warn them to prepare. Manila is north of the path that Haiyan took in November 2013.

Given the country's experience with Haiyan — it demolished 1 million houses and displaces some 4 million people — authorities seemed better positioned this time to respond.

On Thursday, the government said it was considering declaring a state of national calamity to freeze prices of basic goods, and President Benigno Aquino ordered the trade department to send more food supplies to provinces at risk amid reports of panic buying of basic supplies.

The coast guard closed ports throughout the Philippines, and stopped sea travel, stranding more than 2,000 passengers.

"We've warned them early to move away from shore, not just anchor their ships, because previously they just anchored their ships ... . The waves lifted them and washed them ashore," Armand Balilo, a coastguard spokesman, said in a radio interview.

While the local weather bureau and the Japan Meteorological Agency predicted Hagupit would make a direct hit on the central Philippines, the forecasting website Tropical Storm Risk showed the storm veering north, closer to the capital Manila.

The Japan Meteorological Agency classified Hagupit as a "violent" storm while the U.S. military called it a super typhoon.

Tropical Storm Risks was predicting on Friday that the typhoon would have weakened to a Category 4 — still a powerful storm — when it made landfall.

Eastern Samar and the island of Leyte were clobbered by the winds and storm surges brought by Haiyan, one of the strongest storms ever to make landfall. About 25,000 people still live in tents, shelters and bunkhouses more than a year after Haiyan.

Wire services

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