Typhoon batters northern Philippines

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MANILA (Reuters) - Thousands of people in the Philippine capital and nearby towns were marooned by flashfloods after a strong typhoon hit the main island of Luzon on Saturday, disaster officials said.

Hundreds of families were perched on roofs or trapped in submerged areas, Anthony Golez, spokesman of the National Disaster Coordinating Council told reporters. Soldiers were mobilized to evacuate people to high ground.

"We have mobilized rescue teams with rubber boats and amphibious vehicles in low-lying areas submerged in one to two meter deep flood waters caused by heavy rains in the last 24 hours," Golez said.

Wilfredo Tamayo, head of the Philippine Coast Guard, said more than 2,000 passengers had been stranded after the coast guard grounded small ferries and cargo ships to avoid potential accident.

The typhoon, with gusts of 100 kph, was moving west-northwest and was expected to cross the main island of Luzon during the day, the weather bureau said.

The typhoon should be over the South China Sea by Sunday and is headed toward southern China, chief weather forecaster Nathaniel Cruz said.

An average of about 20 typhoons strike the Southeast Asian nation every year.

(Reporting by Karen Lema, Rosemarie Francisco and Manny Mogato; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)

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