Friday, October 2, 2009

Philippines in 'state of calamity' as typhoon looms

Philippines in 'state of calamity' as typhoon looms
Slideshow: Faces of Asia PH

MANILA (AFP) - – President Gloria Arroyo placed the Philippines under a "state of calamity" on Friday and terrified people fled their homes as a powerful typhoon threatened to unleash more carnage following deadly floods.

After being accused of not preparing her country adequately for last Saturday's storm that killed 293 people in and around Manila, Arroyo also ordered forced evacuations of towns in the direct path of Typhoon Parma.

"Our prayers are that no lives will be lost," said Bella Angara, the governor of the northern Philippine province of Aurora, which is one of the areas predicted to feel Parma's full force on Saturday afternoon.

The government warned Parma would tear down houses in and around Aurora, while likely bringing more heavy rain to the nation's capital, Manila, and nearby areas that were still recovering from Saturday's record floods.

"We're praying very hard that the super typhoon will spare us," said housewife Nita Solita, 42, who was living in a makeshift evacuation centre in Manila after losing her home in the floods.

"I don't know what's happening to our country."

Nearly 400,000 people remained in under-prepared schools, gymnasiums and other makeshift government shelters after tropical storm Ketsana unleashed the heaviest rains in more than four decades on Manila.

The rains from Parma threatened to worsen already squalid conditions and further hamper relief supplies for the survivors in those shelters.

Many parts of Manila and neighbouring regions also remain under water -- with mud, debris and trash still blocking drains -- so any more rain could lead to another surge in flood waters.

In one town that remained in chest-deep water on the outskirts of Manila, people were fleeing their homes in preparation for another surge in the floods.

"I ordered this morning the evacuation of people in flood-stricken areas... thousands have already transferred to public schools and my own rice milling compound," said San Pedro mayor Calixto Cataquiz. Related article: Prison under water

Arroyo also ordered the evacuation of those living in coastal and low-lying regions further north on the Philippines' main island of Luzon, such as Aurora province.

"We need that preventative evacuation," Arroyo said in a nationally televised conference with government officials that was held to discuss preparations for Parma.

Her spokesman, Cerge Remonde, told reporters later that Arroyo had declared a state of calamity for the whole country, which allows local authorities to tap emergency funds and the national government to impose price controls.

Large areas of the Philippines, including Manila, are already under a state of calamity because of tropical storm Ketsana.

"(But) it is much better if the whole country (is under a state of calamity) so that local governments are prepared," Remonde said.

About 1.8 million people could be exposed to Parma's worst winds, according to the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

"We are extremely concerned," said Elisabeth Byrs, spokeswoman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

The government weather station said that Parma, which was originally forecast to hit Aurora on Saturday morning, was now predicted to make landfall on Saturday afternoon after its pace slowed.

But it was still packing wind gusts of 230 kilometres per hour and could even strengthen with the more time it spends over the sea, it said.

"These gusts are strong enough to destroy houses, to rip the roofs off houses," said Nathaniel Cruz, head of the weather forecasting unit.

The Philippines is normally battered by about 20 typhoons annually, but the pattern has changed in recent years and the ferocity of some has increased.

Some weather experts have blamed the changing nature and pattern of the typhoons on climate change.

No comments:

Post a Comment