MANILA, Philippines — Asia had little respite today from an already brutal storm season, with warnings the next tempest was en route to the Philippines while three nations counted their dead from the previous typhoon, with the toll reaching 386.
Officials were preparing compulsory evacuation plans for tens of thousands of people in the Philippines as they watched Typhoon Parma track toward the country with winds gusting up to 130 mph.
A decision on the evacuations would be made in the next day or so, Social Welfare Secretary Esperanza Cabral said. Meanwhile, refugees from the existing disaster were asked to halt any plans to return home and stay in shelters, he said.
Parma could be more powerful than Ketsana, which left the Philippines’ capital awash Saturday and then cut a destructive path across Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.
“We are dealing with a very strong typhoon (and) there is a big possibility that this typhoon will gather more strength,” Nathaniel Cruz, the Philippines’ chief weather forecaster, said of Parma. “Let us all pray.”
Meanwhile, the Asia-Pacific region struggled to recover from two major earthquakes. The death toll from Tuesday’s quake-triggered tsunami in the South Pacific rose above 140, and Indonesia said the toll from a 7.6-magnitude quake there Wednesday was at least 529.
Steady rain fell in Manila today after several days of clear skies, making conditions miserable for more than 2 million people whose homes were lined with slushy mud by the worst flooding in four decades.
The idea of another storm brought fresh trauma to survivors.
“I hope the typhoon will hit another place,” said Glen Juban, whose family was washed from the roof of their shanty by floodwaters last Saturday. Juban, his wife and 13-year-old son survived but his 4-year-old daughter drowned.
“We’ve been hit so hard. The situation now is just so difficult and I don’t know if we can take some more, another calamity.”
In Cambodia and central Vietnam, rescuers picked through the remains of houses that were blown down or buried in landslides, and villages remained cut off by mud-blocked roads and the worst floods in decades.
A Vietnamese military helicopter dropped packets of instant noodles to villages in central Kon Tum province while authorities in Quang Ngai province used speed boats to rush noodles and bottled water to victims in two isolated mountain districts, provincial officials said.
In Cambodia, rain poured down on towns in Siem Reap province already awash in three feet of floodwaters. Schools, markets and other businesses were closed, deputy police chief Kan Sambath said.
Four large trees at the famed Angkor Thom temple complex were felled by the storm but did not cause any damage, he said.
The Laotian state news agency KPL reported flooding and damage to roads, bridges and telecommunications in the country’s southern provinces. It said homes and rice fields were damaged when the storm hit Wednesday morning, but there was no information about casualties.
Officials in Vietnam today raised the death toll there to 92. Cambodia’s rose to 14. The storm was deadliest in the Philippines, with 280 killed.
Parma was 270 miles off the Philippines this evening, heading for the coast north of where Ketsana hit. It was expected to hit on Saturday, but was already bringing rain to eastern provinces.
World Vision, a nongovernment agency helping people in all weather-affected countries, said the new storm could hamper aid delivery.
“Families are now just starting to pick up what was left of their lives,” said Elnora Avarientos, World Vision’s chief in the Philippines. “Now, I’m afraid … Typhoon Parma would make it a lot harder for the affected families to cope and for the relief … agencies to respond.”
Cruz said Parma could strengthen into a “super typhoon,” a designation given to storms with sustained winds exceeding 124 mph. It was carrying less rain than Ketsana, but the stronger winds could be very destructive, he said.
However, the storm could still change course and miss the Philippines, he said.
Typhoons occur year-round in the northeastern Pacific, usually blowing in from the east and tracking a path threatening Southeast Asia and southern China to Japan in the north. They are most common and usually most powerful from August to November.
Ketsana followed on the heels of Typhoon Morakot, which slammed into Taiwan in early August, causing mudslides and the worst flooding on the island in 50 years. Morakot also killed 22 people in the Philippines and eight in China.