Philippines braces for Typhoon Parma

A NASA satellite image shows Typhoon Parma as it heads towards the Philippines.
Tens of thousands of Filipinos sought shelter in evacuation centers as the storm-ravaged nation of islands braced for Typhoon Parma, expected to make landfall Saturday afternoon.

At 1 p.m (1 a.m. ET), Parma, known locally as Typhoon Pepeng, had maximum sustained winds of 167 kph (103 mph) with gusts as high as 204 kph (127 mph) as it approached the coastline of Luzon, the largest of the Philippine islands. The storm is expected to hit land along the northern coastline, a rural region of fisherman and farmers. The biggest threat for other parts of the country, including the heavily populated capital of Manila, was rain, more than wind. Areas already water-logged by last week’s Typhoon Ketsana could see as much as 8 to 20 more inches of rain. Frightened Filipinos are preparing for the worst. Arturo Fidelino, a telecommunications executive in Manila, described panicked people rushing to stock up on essential goods — drinking water, canned food and electrical supplies. “We had a traumatic experience when we had Ketsana,” he said about the storm that slammed the Philippines last weekend, killed more than 200 people and left most of Manila submerged. “We don’t want that to happen again,” he said. Tens of thousands of Filipinos have been evacuated and Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro appealed to them to remain in shelters even if they were in cities and towns not directly in Parma’s path. Teodoro said he was worried about massive flooding and possible mudslides.

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President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo placed the country “under the state of calamity” in preparation for Parma’s landfall. She ordered evacuations as a precautionary measure against floods and landslides, and asked weather officials to issue an hourly update. She also urged local governments to implement forced evacuations if need be. The order focuses on Camarines Norte, Aurora, northern Quezon, Polillo Island, Isabela and Cagayan. Thousands have been evacuated in Isabela and rescue crews have a “standing order to use force if necessary” to move adults and children, said Paul Fernandez, who is overseeing disaster relief in Isabela. The government is providing the province with relief funds, he said. Evacuees were taken to schools and warehouses on higher ground, he said. Macapagal-Arroyo said disaster-relief crews in vulnerable areas must be equipped with life-saving kits, boats, portable generators and trucks. Ketsana, which swallowed whole houses and buses over the weekend, killed 246 in the Philippines. It later strengthened into a typhoon. An additional 38 are missing, the National Disaster Coordinating Council said. The storm affected nearly 2 million people and forced the evacuation of 567,000.

At one point, 80 percent of the capital, Manila, was under water after experiencing the heaviest rainfall in 40 years. The storm also killed at least 74 people in Vietnam and nine in Cambodia.