A super typhoon barrelled towards the Philippines on Sunday and was on track to slam into the heavily populated main island of Luzon, forcing the evacuations of coastal towns, authorities said.
Super Typhoon Noru was packing maximum sustained wind speeds of 185 kilometres an hour after an unprecedented "explosive intensification", the state weather forecaster said.
The storm, the strongest to hit the Philippines this year, is expected to continue strengthening as it makes landfall around 80 kilometres northeast of the sprawling capital Manila in the afternoon or evening local time.
"We ask residents living in danger zones to adhere to calls for evacuation whenever necessary," Philippine National Police chief General Rodolfo Azurin said.
The Philippines is regularly ravaged by storms, with scientists warning they are becoming more powerful as the world gets warmer because of climate change.
Weather forecaster Robb Gile said Noru's rapid intensification was "unprecedented". The agency said it increased by 90 kilometres per hour in 24 hours.
Noru comes nine months after another super typhoon devastated swathes of the country, killing more than 400 people and leaving hundreds of thousands homeless.
Residents in several municipalities in Quezon province, where this latest storm could make a direct hit, were being evacuated from their homes, said Mel Avenilla from the provincial disaster office.
In the neighbouring province of Aurora, residents of Dingalan municipality were being forced to seek shelter.
Noru could have wind speeds of up to 205 kilometres per hour when it makes landfall, the weather bureau said.
It is expected to weaken to a typhoon as it sweeps across central Luzon, before entering the South China Sea on Monday, heading towards Vietnam.
The weather bureau warned of dangerous storm surges, widespread flooding and landslides as the storm dumps heavy rain.
It could damage farmlands in the heavily agricultural region, as well as inundate villages.
The Philippines – ranked among the most vulnerable nations to the impacts of climate change – is hit by an average of 20 storms every year. (AFP)