Thursday, 1 October 2009

Asia readies for next storm as death toll rises

Residents negotiate knee-deep mud at a remote village in Rodriguez, Rizal province, Philippines on Thursday Oct. 1, 2009. Flood victims from Typhoon Ketsana trudged through sludge in the Philippines as death toll rose from water that submerged the homes of nearly 2 million people. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

Pham Thi Thu Suong, 7, rides a boa past Hoi An's landmark Japanese Bridge in flooded water in Hoi An, Vietnam, Thursday, Oct. 1, 2009 after Typhoon Ketsana passed the area. Ketsana prompted the worst flooding in the northern Philippines in 40 years when it struck Saturday, and then continued its deadly path across Southeast Asia, blowing down wooden villages in Cambodia and crushing Vietnamese houses under mudslides on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Chitose Suzuki)

Cambodian villagers carry coffins loaded with bodies of villagers who died during Typhoon Ketsana in Teuk Mileang village, Sandan district, Kampong Thom province, about 250 kilometers (155 miles), north of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2009. Typhoon Ketsana swept into central Cambodia and toppled dozens of rickety homes, killing at least 11 people and injuring some 29 others, disaster officials said Wednesday. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

(Post by CAAi News media)

MANILA, Philippines — Asia had little respite Thursday from an already brutal storm season, with warnings the next tempest was en route to the Philippines while three nations counted their dead from the previous typhoon, with the toll reaching 383.

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 130 mph (210 kph).

A decision on the evacuations would be made in the next day or so, Social Welfare Secretary Esperanza Cabral said.

Parma could be more powerful than Ketsana, which left the Philippines' capital awash Saturday and then cut a destructive path across Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.

"We are dealing with a very strong typhoon (and) there is a big possibility that this typhoon will gather more strength," Nathaniel Cruz, the Philippines' chief weather forecaster, said of Parma. "Let us all pray."

Meanwhile, the Asia-Pacific region struggled to recover from two major earthquakes. The death toll from Tuesday's quake-triggered tsunami in the South Pacific rose above 140, and Indonesia said the toll from a 7.6-magnitude quake there Wednesday was above 460.

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. Juban, his wife and 13-year-old son survived but his 4-year-old daughter drowned.

"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 cutoff 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 three feet (half a meter) of floodwaters. Schools, markets and other businesses were closed, 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 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.

Parma was 404 miles (650 kilometers) off the Philippines on Thursday morning, heading for the coast north of where Ketsana hit. It was expected to hit on Saturday, but was already bringing rain to eastern provinces.

Cruz said Parma could strengthen into a "super typhoon," a designation given to storms with sustained winds exceeding 124 mph (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, he said.

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.

Associated Press writers Teresa Cerojano and Jim Gomez in Manila, Minh Van Tran in Hanoi, Vietnam, Sopheng Cheang in Phnom Pehn, Cambodia, and Grant Peck in Bangkok contributed to this report.

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