Storm Stalls Off Philippines, Drenches Taiwan

Monday, October 5th 2009, 7:58 am
By: News On 6

MANILA, Philippines - Typhoon Parma weakened into a tropical storm but lingered off the northern Philippine coast Monday, causing widespread flooding and landslides that have killed 16 in the country and churning up rough seas that sank a cargo ship off neighboring Taiwan.

The Taiwanese coast guard said 10 crew members of a Panamanian cargo ship are missing after the vessel sank in the Taiwan Strait near the Bashi channel, which separates the island from the Philippines.

Chief Philippine government forecaster Nathaniel Cruz said Parma headed northwest into the South China Sea after blowing across the country's north, which is still reeling from an earlier storm that killed almost 300 people. Parma was now almost still because Typhoon Melor, which blew into Philippine waters Monday from the west, was pulling it back toward the coast.

Parma can still roar back into the country and will continue to dump heavy rain, Cruz said. The storm was located 137 miles (220 kilometers) off northern Laoag city, packing winds of 65 mph (105 kph) and gusts of up to 84 mph (135 kph).

Typhoon Melor over the northern Pacific Ocean was pushing west, Cruz said. It was too far off the coast to affect the rain-soaked northern Philippines and was expected to blow toward southern Japan later this week, he said.

Parma hit the main island of Luzon on Saturday. Flooding and landslides over the weekend killed at least 16 people, but the capital, Manila - still awash in floodwaters from another storm barely a week earlier - was spared a new disaster.

In Taiwan, authorities had issued landslide and flash flooding warnings for eastern and southern areas in preparation, and evacuated 6,582 residents from vulnerable regions.

Officials at the Coast Guard Administration said three of 14 crew members onboard the Panamanian-registered Silver Sea are safe after the ship went down in heavy seas Sunday in the Taiwan Strait. It said one has been confirmed dead while 10 others are missing.

Parma spared Taiwan its full brunt Monday, veering off its southwestern coast.

Still, it brought very heavy rains. The Central Weather Bureau reported 29 inches (746 millimeters) of precipitation in the eastern county of Yilan since Sunday. That comes just weeks after a deadly typhoon hit southern Taiwan causing torrential rains and the island's worst flooding in decades.

Parma hit the Philippines just eight days after a Tropical Storm Ketsana inundated Manila and surrounding provinces, killing almost 300 people. Saturday's storm dropped more rain on the capital, slowing the cleanup and making conditions more miserable.

Still, classes in and around Manila were reopened Monday after a weeklong closure, except where schools were turned into evacuation centers.

At the Santa Elena High School in flood-hit Marikina city, east of Manila, muddied teachers and students turned up for class. They were still coming to terms with their ordeal.

"We were near tears because of the situation, especially over the past days when the students were texting us that they have lost their homes," said teacher Virma Mariano. "We have teachers who went through a near-death experience when they were being chased by the flood, they went from one roof to the other."

Army troops and firefighters shoveled mud off the school grounds. A sodden heap of damaged books lay outside the library, now a messy tangle of wooden furniture and soaked papers. Young students gazed as troops struggled to clean up their devastated school.

Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro toured flood-ruined farming regions in northern Bulacan province. He said it remained uncertain when the devastated regions can fully recover.

Last week, Ketsana killed at least 288 people and damaged the homes of 3 million in the Philippines before striking other Southeast Asian nations, killing 162 in Vietnam, 18 in Cambodia and at least 16 in Laos.


Associated Press writers Teresa Cerojano in Manila and Peter Enav in Taipei, Taiwan, contributed to this report.