posted October 02, 2009 05:56 PM
‘Super typhoon’ bears down on Philippines
50,000 evacuated from island already devastated by recent storm
The Associated Press
MANILA, Philippines - Filipinos braced Friday to be whipped by powerful winds and pelted with rain from a second typhoon in eight days, fleeing by the tens of thousands from low-lying areas and suspending cleanup operations in the still-flooded capital.
President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo declared a nationwide "state of calamity" and ordered mass evacuations of six provinces in the path of Typhoon Parma, which was expected to hit the main island of Luzon midafternoon Saturday.
Parma threatened to expand more than a week of destruction in the Asia-Pacific region that has claimed more than 1,500 lives so far: an earthquake Wednesday in Indonesia; a tsunami Tuesday in the Samoan islands; and Typhoon Ketsana across Southeast Asia.
Cedric Daep, a top disaster official in the Philippines' Albay province, said officials there had evacuated almost 50,000 people to shelters on higher ground.
Police and the military were helping people to leave flood- or landslide-prone areas across the north and east, where heavy rain fell on Friday.
"Our objective is zero casualties," Daep told The Associated Press.
'We still don't have any shelter'
Parts of the capital, Manila, were still awash from the worst floods in 40 years caused by Ketsana last Saturday. Almost 300 people were killed and more than 2 million had swamped homes.
In Quezon City, where muddy brown water was still chest-deep, residents turned from cleaning up after Ketsana to trying to secure their belongings from the risk of more flooding.
"We do not know what to do or where we can go," said resident Bebang De Los Santos. "We don't have a way out and this is the only place that is safe, but we don't have any shelter."
In Albay, laundry worker Mely Malate fled with her husband and six children to an evacuation center, spurred by memories of a storm three years ago.
"During the last typhoon, we were trapped inside the house by the flood waters and we had to climb to the roof," she said. "We are scared whenever there is a storm. When we left this morning, the river was already higher than normal."
Arroyo's "state of calamity" declaration frees up government funds to respond to emergencies.
Parma was forecast to cross the coast of the main island of Luzon north of Manila, packing sustained winds of up to 120 mph, gusting up to 140 mph. If the sustained winds reach 133 mph Parma will get the official designation "super-typhoon," the government's weather bureau said.
It was expected to continue east into the South China Sea by Sunday, though it's direction from there was uncertain. As many as 20 major storms buffet the region each year.
In southern Taiwan, the county where about 700 died when Typhoon Morakot hit in August plans to evacuate several villages prone to flooding and mudslides if a warning for Parma is issued, said county chief Yang Chiu-hsing.
Earlier this week, the storm that flooded the Philippines, Ketsana, then hit Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos; 293 died in the Philippines, 99 in Vietnam, 14 in Cambodia and 16 in Laos.
As many as 20 major storms buffet the region each year.
Lake Laguna on the edge of the capital rose by more than 3.3 feet as Ketsana passed and was in danger of spilling over into districts near Manila housing some 100,000 people, said Ed Manda, general manager of the Laguna Lake Development Authority.
At a briefing Friday evening, weather bureau administrator Frisco Nilo said a high-pressure system near Hong Kong had caused Parma to slow slightly and might cause it to change direction, though it was still likely to hit the main northern Philippine island of Luzon.