x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

New typhoon heads for Philippines

As South East Asia recovers from Typhoon Ketsana, Typhoon Parma is threatening to be even more destructive.

MANILA // Officials were preparing compulsory evacuation plans for tens of thousands of people in the Philippines as they watched Typhoon Parma track toward the country with winds gusting up to 210 kph. A decision on the evacuations would be made in the next day or so, the country's social welfare secretary, Esperanza Cabral, said. Parma could be more powerful than Ketsana, which left the Philippines' capital awash on Saturday and then cut a destructive path across Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.

Nathaniel Cruz, the Philippines' chief weather forecaster, said of Parma: "We are dealing with a very strong typhoon. There is a big possibility that this typhoon will gather more strength. Let us all pray." Parma was last monitored 650km east of Borongan town on the eastern island of Samar at dawn. Mr Cruz said the typhoon was expected to slam into the north of the Philippines' Luzon island on Saturday afternoon but was already bringing rain to eastern provinces. Mr Cruz said Parma could strengthen into a "super typhoon", a designation given to storms with sustained winds exceeding 200 kph) It was carrying less rain than Ketsana, but the stronger winds could be very destructive, he said. However, the storm could still change course and miss the Philippines, Mr Cruz said.

Steady rain fell in Manila on Thursday after several days of clear skies, making conditions miserable for more than 2 million people whose homes were lined with slushy mud by the worst flooding in four decades. The idea of another storm brought fresh trauma to survivors. "I hope the typhoon will hit another place," said Glen Juban, whose family was washed from the roof of their shanty by floodwaters last Saturday.

Mr Juban, his wife and 13-year-old son survived but his 4-year-old daughter drowned. He said: "We've been hit so hard. The situation now is just so difficult and I don't know if we can take some more, another calamity." In Cambodia and central Vietnam, rescuers picked through the remains of houses that were blown down or buried in landslides, and villages remained cut off by mud-blocked roads and the worst floods in decades. A Vietnamese military helicopter dropped packets of instant noodles to cut-off villages in central Kon Tum province while authorities in Quang Ngai province used speed boats to rush noodles and bottled water to victims in two isolated mountain districts, provincial officials said.

In Cambodia, rain poured down on towns in Siem Reap province already awash in almost a metre of floodwaters. Schools, markets and other businesses were closed, the deputy police chief, Kan Sambath, said. Four large trees at the famed Angkor Thom temple complex were felled by the storm but did not cause any damage, he said. The Laotian state news agency KPL reported flooding and damage to roads, bridges and telecommunications in the country's southern provinces. It said homes and rice fields were damaged when the storm hit on Wednesday morning, but there was no information about casualties.

Officials in Vietnam raised the death toll there to 92 on Thursday. Cambodia's rose to 14. The storm was deadliest in the Philippines, with 277 killed. Typhoons occur year-round in the northeastern Pacific, usually blowing in from the east and tracking a path threatening South East Asia and southern China to Japan in the north. They are most common and usually most powerful from August to November. Ketsana came after Typhoon Morakot, which slammed into Taiwan in early August, causing mudslides and the worst flooding on the island in 50 years. Morakot also killed 22 people in the Philippines and eight in China.

* AP and AFP