MANILA (Reuters) - The Philippines ordered the evacuation of people living in low-lying coastal areas on Friday as a “super typhoon” threatened devastation a week after flash floods killed nearly 300 people in and around Manila.
Typhoon Parma, 270 km (170 miles) east of the island of Catanduanes, was gaining strength as it churned west north-west toward the mainland and already bringing heavy rain to the area.
It was expected to make landfall near the northeastern Aurora and Isabela provinces on Luzon by Saturday. Most of the area is mountainous and not heavily populated, but Parma could bring heavy rain across the region over the next two days, making life even worse for Manila.
The Asia-Pacific region has been hit by a series of natural disasters in recent days, including Typhoon Ketsana which killed more than 400 in the Philippines, Vietnam and Cambodia.
Two powerful earthquakes rocked the Indonesian island of Sumatra, with the death toll likely to be in the thousands, and a tsunami battered American and Western Samoa, killing nearly 150.
“We’re concerned about the effects of more rain on the relief work in flooded areas because the water level could rise again,” Philippine Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro said in a briefing aired live on national television.
Teodoro, the head of the National Disaster Coordinating Council, has placed the military and police on alert and ordered civilian agencies to stockpile food, water, medicine, fuel and other relief supplies.
The weather bureau said Parma, with gusts of up to 230 kph (143 mph) at the center, will be the strongest typhoon to hit the country since 2006.
“It’s still very much possible that we will raise signal number 4 as it closes in on northern Luzon,” Prisco Nilo, head of the weather bureau, told reporters.
At signal number 4, residential and commercial buildings may be severely damaged, large trees uprooted, and power and communication lines may be cut.
Ketsana left tens of thousands homeless in and around Manila and areas around a lake near the capital remain submerged under 2-3 meter floodwaters. It also damaged or destroyed more than $108 million in crops, infrastructure and property.
The Philippines is hit by frequent typhoons in the summer which often continue on their track to hit Vietnam, China and Taiwan before weakening over land.
(Additional reporting by Ho Binh Minh in HANOI and Manny Mogato)
Reporting by Rosemarie Francisco; Editing by Nick Macfie