Philippines orders evacuation ahead of typhoon
Tens of thousands of people in the Philippines have been ordered out of their communities ahead of a typhoon that is expected to curb relief efforts after a deadly storm earlier in the week.
Heavy rain from Typhoon Parma is already drenching the coastal regions of the country's northeast as the system continues to track toward the region, where it is expected to strike the island of Luzon mid-afternoon Saturday.
President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo declared a nationwide "state of calamity" and ordered six provincial governments to evacuate flood- and landslide-prone areas in the path of the storm.
Cedric Daep, a top disaster official in the Philippines' Albay province, said officials have moved about 50,000 people to shelters at higher elevations.
"Our objective is zero casualties," Daep said.
The country remained on high alert Friday evening despite an updated forecast indicating a high pressure system near Hong Kong may have slowed Parma slightly and that it may change direction.
Local officials said the typhoon still has the capacity to cause extensive damage and are also concerned about how it will affect relief efforts from Typhoon Ketsana, which struck last weekend.
Worst flooding in 40 years
The region experienced its worst flooding in 40 years when Typhoon Ketsana left the Philippines' capital of Manila awash last Saturday and then cut a destructive path across Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.
Ketsana killed at least 422 people in four Southeast Asian countries, including 293 in the Philippines, 99 in Vietnam and 14 in Cambodia. The Red Cross reported that at least 16 people have also died in Laos and more than 100 people are missing.
Parma is forecast to make landfall Saturday, packing sustained winds of up to 195 kilometres an hour and gusts that could surpass 230 km/h. If sustained winds reach 215 km/h, Parma would be classified as a "super typhoon."
Though Parma is carrying strong winds, it appears to be carrying less rain than Ketsana, said Nathaniel Parma, the chief government weather forecaster.
That could mean a lower risk of flooding, he said. But even a little bit of rain in regions already saturated with flood waters could be disastrous, officials said.
The declaration of the state of calamity extends one that already applies to Manila and 25 provinces hit by the earlier storm and will free up funds to respond to emergencies.
The evacuation order will allow children and minors to be evacuated by force from communities in Parma's path, Teodoro said.
"There is some resistance because they don't want to leave their homes behind for fear of looting," Melchito Castro, the disaster response chief in one threatened district, the Cagayan Valley, told The Associated Press.
Mely Malate said her family travelled to an evacuation centre after seeing the river near their home was higher than normal. Family members, including six children, were trapped by a typhoon 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."
Refugees from the latest storm have been ordered to halt any plans to return home and to stay in shelters instead.
In Taiwan, authorities have also placed 12 villages under an evacuation order ahead of Parma and Typhoon Melor, which is also churning in the Pacific.
Airlines have cancelled domestic flights to several destinations in the typhoon-affected areas in the Philippines.
Civilian agencies have also been ordered to stockpile food, water, medicine, fuel and other relief supplies.
World Vision, a non-government agency helping people in all weather-affected countries, said the new storm could hamper aid delivery.
"Families are now just starting to pick up what was left of their lives," said Elnora Avarientos, World Vision's chief in the Philippines. "Now, I'm afraid …Typhoon Parma would make it a lot harder for the affected families to cope and for the relief … agencies to respond."
With files from The Associated Press