MANILA The Philippines placed soldiers and civilian emergency teams on the main island of Luzon on alert on Thursday as a powerful typhoon moved closer, less than a week after an earlier storm killed 277 people in and around Manila.
Parma, a category 4 typhoon, packing winds of 175 kph (108 mph), was 520 km (320 miles) east of the central Philippine island of Samar on Thursday, said chief weather forecaster Nathaniel Cruz.
It was expected to make landfall near northeastern Quirino and Isabela provinces on Luzon by Saturday unless it changed direction.
"It's gathering strength into a category 5 typhoon," Cruz told Reuters, adding it could be the one of the strongest typhoons to hit the country since November 2006 when Typhoon Durian left death and destruction in the central Philippines.
"By Saturday afternoon, Parma could be packing center winds of more than 200 kph and could be weakened once it slams into the Cordillera mountain region in the north."
Gilberto Teodoro, head of the defense and disaster agencies, ordered troops to evacuate coastal and low-lying areas as well as landslide-prone areas in the northern Philippines.
Teodoro has also ordered civilian agencies to stockpile food, water, medicine, fuel and other relief supplies as relief work continued five days after Typhoon Ketsana dumped record-high rain that submerged 80 percent of the capital region and nearby areas.
Ketsana killed 277 people and left tens of thousands homeless. It also damaged or destroyed more than $100 million in crops, infrastructure and property.
(Reporting by Manny Mogato; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan and Dean Yates)