Storm spares Philippines capital – Typhoon Parma hits Philippines

Typhoon Parma hits Philippines

Typhoon Parma has begun bringing strong winds and heavy rain to northern parts of the storm-battered Philippines.

However, it weakened and changed course as it neared and most of the country – including the flood-hit capital, Manila – is expected to escape major disaster.

Earlier, President Gloria Arroyo declared a "state of calamity" and 33,000 people were told to leave homes.

Hundreds died as Typhoon Ketsana hit the Philippines, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam last week.

The latest storm, though, has taken a more northerly course, sparing the central areas worst hit by Ketsana, including Manila.

Power lines and trees in the far north were toppled, the Associated Press reported, by winds measured at 175kph (108mph) – down from its earlier force of 230km/h (140mph), but still capable of inflicting major damage.

Map showing the predicted path of typhoon Parma

While Manila, still struggling to recover from severe and widespread flooding, is expected to be spared, areas of Luzon province and the far northern region of Cagayan were expected to see significant rainfall.

Parma was due to make landfall in Aurora province near the northern tip of the main island of Luzon.

Ships poised

Despite the improved forecast, officials in the Philippines warned those evacuated from their homes against returning too quickly.

A woman with her child in Rizal province

Parts of the country are still flooded after Typhoon Ketsana

"I urge the refugees intending to go back to their homes to please remain in our evacuation centres for the meantime, because we cannot predict with 100% accuracy what will happen in Manila during the storm," said Defence Secretary Gilbert Teodoro.

"We are concerned about the effects of more rain on the relief work in flooded areas because the water level could rise again," he said.

US Navy Admiral Timothy Keating said two ships were off the coast of Manila carrying full medical facilities and hundreds of marines who were ready to go wherever needed.

"The weather forecast is pretty grim for the north part of Luzon," he said.

"We think the threat to downtown Manila is lower than it is to the north part of Luzon."

Typhoon Ketsana caused nearly 300 deaths in the Philippines, as well as more than 100 in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.

Parts of the Philippines near Manila remain flooded after Ketsana dropped a month’s worth of rain in 12 hours last Saturday.

Hundreds of thousands remain homeless in and around Manila in the wake of the storm.