x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Typhoons lash Asia

Typhoon Ketsana has so far left 293 dead and affected over three million people, while Typhoon Parma poses dangerous new threat.

Taiwan's Central Weather Bureau warned that Typhoon Parma may be approaching the island, bringing torrential rain with it, after pummelling the northern Philippines. The bureau said the weather system, packing winds of up to 119 km per hour and gusts of up to 155 kph, was expected to bring strong winds and heavy rain as it made a slow approach north. The typhoon was 310km south-west of Oluanpi, the southernmost tip of Taiwan, at 0600 GMT and was predicted to circle around the Bashi Channel which separates Taiwan and the Philippines. "The typhoon is forecast to move along the (northern) track until Monday night and then turn southwest," a bureau official said. "In the next two to three days, the typhoon may move slowly and hover around the Bashi Channel, and after that, how it moves needs further observation," he said. Taiwanese authorities have evacuated more than 1,800 people, some of them forced, from the remote mountainous areas. The government came under strong criticism for an alleged late and ineffective reaction to Typhoon Morakot, which claimed more than 600 lives and plunged President Ma Ying-jeou into his worst political crisis since taking office. In Indonesia rescuers held out scant hope of finding more quake survivors, leaving clean-up teams the grim task of retrieving the decaying bodies of thousands of victims from the rubble. The military and medics pushed deeper into rural areas where whole villages have been buried by landslides, and more international rescue teams arrived with sniffer dogs and specialist equipment. Teams from the United Arab Emirates, Australia, Britain, Japan, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Turkey, Qatar and the United States have arrived or are travelling to the scene to help overwhelmed and exhausted locals. The quake struck off Sumatra's west coast north-west of Padang on Wednesday on a major faultline on the volatile "Ring of Fire" that scientists have long warned was a disaster waiting to happen. Another 5.5-magnitude earthquake rocked Indonesia, in West Papua province which is in the far east of the sprawling archipelago about 3,500 km from the Sumatra quake disaster zone. Authorities said there were no reports of injuries there. The president of the Philippines, Gloria Arroyo, has ordered agriculture officials to import rice amid an expected supply crunch next year following devastating typhoons that battered the farm sector, her spokesman said. Typhoon Parma, which hit northern Luzon island on Saturday, leaving at least 15 dead, swamped large swathes of farm land just a week after tropical storm Ketsana dumped the heaviest rainfall in more than four decades on Manila. Ketsana left 293 dead and affected over three million people. The typhoons have caused extensive damage to farming and Ms Arroyo has ordered free seedlings for farmers, her spokesman Cerge Remonde said. The Philippines relies heavily on imports to feed its rapidly growing population of 92 million. In 2008, the country was forced to buy some 2.3m tonnes of the crop despite record world prices. This year, it has so far imported 1.7m tons from Vietnam. Ketsana however has not spared rice producer Vietnam, where it killed 162 people and flooded large areas in the countryside. *AFP