MANILA, Philippines, October 2, 2009 (ENS) – President Gloria Arroyo today declared a nationwide calamity and ordered local governments, police and military to forcibly evacuate residents in the projected path of “super typhoon” Parma, the second typhoon to strike the island nation this week.
At an emergency Cabinet and National Disaster Coordinating Council meeting this morning in Cainta, the President issued the order to evacuate people on Luzon Island in the provinces of Camarines Norte, Aurora, Northern Quezon, Pollilio Island, Isabela and Cagayan, “to prevent further loss of lives.”
She ordered that residents who live in danger zones near rivers and on mountain slopes be removed as a precaution against possible flash floods and landslides.
The typhoon, locally called Pepeng, has a sustained maximum wind of 195 kilometers per hour (121 mph) with higher gusts of 230 km/h (143 mph), Frisco Nilo, director of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration, told the President and Cabinet. These wind speeds are those of a Category 3 hurricane with dangerous winds expected to cause extensive damage.
Nilo said the storm could develop into a “super typhoon” within the next 24 hours and is expected to make landfall in the provinces of Aurora and Isabela by Saturday noon, local time.
President Arroyo requested an hourly update on typhoon conditions and asked Nilo to immediately report any sudden rise in water levels in dams and reservoirs near Manila.
The President ordered that disaster relief response teams in vulnerable areas be equipped with rubber boats, portable generators, M35 trucks, and lifesaving kits.
“This is a full-force typhoon which could reach Category 5 level,” Angela Travis, a spokeswoman for the United Nations in Manila, told the UN news agency IRIN. “They are hit by 20-plus typhoons a year and they are gearing up.”
The President declared the entire country under a State of Calamity in preparation for the super typhoon. The declaration allows local government units to use their five percent calamity fund and to impose price controls on basic commodities, including construction materials.
The super typhoon bearing down on the Philippines comes six days after Typhoon Ketsana, locally called Ondoy, flooded 80 percent of Manila and surrounding areas, claiming nearly 300 lives and affecting more than three million people.
Philippine officials are still struggling to distribute aid to the hundreds of thousands of people displaced by Ondoy who are sheltering in schools, churches, gymnasiums, and in the Presidential palace.
“Six days after Ketsana whipped the country, we are continuing to rush widespread distribution of aid to those still in need,” Arroyo said, warning that traders using the crisis as a reason to inflate the prices of basic commodities would be sent to prison.
The President ordered the distribution of drinking water and one million packages of instant noodles. With local officials, she distributed packages of food to survivors in the town of Rodriguez, Rizal.
There, the President listened to the stories of Juana Hispano and Leonor Ginoba, both residents of the village of Tinpasil, who are homeless after rushing floodwaters weakened the foundations of their houses until they collapsed.
Homeless survivors of Typhoon Ketsana are taking shelter in the presidential palace. (Photo by Avito Dalan courtesy Office of the President)
In tears, the two women appealed to the President for help. Arroyo told them the government is doing all it can to provide immediate assistance.
She said the Department of Social Welfare and Development will conduct house-to-house surveys of typhoon victims who apply for assistance to ascertain that claims of calamity are properly documented. She said this will ensure that those who need assistance will receive it.
The National Disaster Response Committee estimates that more than 10,000 homes were damaged by Ondoy, with 4,270 homes completely destroyed.
At this morning’s Cabinet meeting President Arroyo stressed the need to relocate riverbank settlers to safer grounds to avoid further loss of lives and properties in future disasters.
“Riverbank settlers should not go back,” to their former homes, she stressed, and asked Vice President Noli de Castro to look for possible relocation sites.
De Castro said 100,000 housing units could be built on a former Manila Bank property in San Miguel, Bulacan and some 281 hectares could be set aside for agri-livelihood projects for relocated typhoon victims.
De Castro, who is also chairman of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council, said the site is 65 kilometers from Manila and could be developed as a permanent relocation site.
View ENS coverage of Typhoon Ketsana: Philippines Appeals for Help as 80% of Manila Flooded