Evacuations start for new Philippine storm

 Filipinos in the likely path of a looming typhoon began evacuating Friday, as the toll from a storm that tore across Southeast Asia days earlier rose to more than 400.

Officials fear Typhoon Parma — due to hit Saturday unless it changes course — will cause a second disaster in the northern Philippines after the worst flooding in four decades swamped the homes of more than 2 million people.

The storm that caused those floods, Ketsana, also ripped across Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, killing at least 406 people — 293 in the Philippines, 99 in Vietnam and 14 in Cambodia.

Disaster officials said evacuations have begun in low-lying and mountainous villages in several provinces north and east of Manila, and officials were poised to relocate other communities in Parma's path, once that became clearer Friday.

A woman washes clothes while standing in floodwaters brought on by Typhoon Ketsana, known locally as Ondoy, in San Pedro Laguna, south of Manila October 1, 2009

Refugees from Ketsana were asked to halt any plans to return home and stay in shelters.

Some 300,000 people have returned to their homes from shelters in schools and other places, though about 400,000 are still housed there, said Glenn Rabonza, executive officer of the National Disaster Coordinating Council.

Heavy rain fell on parts of the eastern coast Friday morning, as Parma swirled slowly northwest. It was about 170 miles (270 kilometers) off eastern Catanduanes province, the government's weather bureau said.

Parma is packing sustained winds of up to 120 mph (195 kph) and gusts up to 140 mph (230 kph), the government's weather bureau said. The bureau's chief Nathaniel Cruz said this was enough to be very destructive.

The prospect of another storm was daunting for many flood survivors.

"We've been hit so hard. The situation now is just so difficult, and I don't know if we can take another calamity," said Glen Juban, whose 4-year-old daughter was swept away by floodwaters and drowned in Saturday's deluge.

Vietnam's government raised the country's death toll from Ketsana by seven to 99 on Friday, and said it was distributing 10,000 tons of rice and $25 million in cash to victims in 14 central provinces. The Philippines raised its toll by 13.

The storm comes as the region struggles to recover from two major earthquakes. The death toll from Tuesday's quake-triggered tsunami in the South Pacific rose to 160, while the toll from a powerful quake in Indonesia was more than 1,000 and climbing.

Typhoons occur year-round in the northeastern Pacific, usually blowing in from the east and tracking a path threatening Southeast Asia and southern China to Japan in the north. They are most common and usually most powerful from August to November.

Ketsana followed on the heels of 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.

source AFP

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