Typhoon kills 17 in Philippines

 A child eats inside a chapel as families evacuate their houses in anticipation for Typhoon Parma in Cainta Rizal, east of Manila October 3, 2009. REUTERS/Cheryl Ravelo
A child eats inside a chapel as families evacuate their houses in anticipation for Typhoon Parma in Cainta Rizal, east of Manila October 3, 2009. REUTERS/Cheryl Ravelo
Reuters

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By Manny Mogato

MANILA (Reuters) - A powerful typhoon slowly moved out to sea on Sunday after slamming into the remote northeastern Philippines and killing 17 people, but damage and flooding, while extensive, were less widespread than feared.

Typhoon Parma, the strongest typhoon to hit the country since 2006, was north of the main Luzon island and was moving northwest very slowly, the weather bureau said.

It had weakened, with maximum sustained winds of 120 kph (75 mph) and gusts of up to 150 kph.

Authorities in Taiwan have issued a warning as Parma could either enter its southern waters or blow west into the South China Sea.

"The destruction in our infrastructure and agriculture is huge," said Alvaro Antonio, the governor of the northern Cagayan province that bore the brunt of the storm. "Wide areas are still under water, including ricelands about to be harvested."

The system brought rain across Luzon on Saturday but not as heavily as expected, especially along the densely populated west coast where floods in and around Manila from Typhoon Ketsana eight days ago killed nearly 300 people.

Officials had feared rain would spark fresh floods in Manila since reservoirs and dams around the capital are full and the sewage system is inundated with mud and rubbish brought by the previous week's deluge.

But rains in Benguet province set off landslides in which at least 12 people were killed, police said. The victims included seven small-scale miners who were sleeping in a shelter when they were buried by one landslide, said provincial police chief Loreto Espeneli.

Five people were killed elsewhere.

Fallen trees and floods cut off roads in Cagayan and neighboring Isabela province. Soldiers, in rubber boats and armed with chain saws, started to clear roads and rescue marooned communities, officials said.

STRONG WINDS

Antonio said many areas remained inaccessible due to power outages and disruption in communications.

"Winds are still strong, but no more rains. Our relief works are ongoing," he said.

About 5,000 people remained in temporary shelter areas. More than 130,000 people in the country's eastern seaboard had fled their homes ahead of typhoon Parma.

Local government officials reported more than 100 million pesos ($2.1 million) in crop damage, particularly in rice and corn farms in Isabela and Cagayan.

Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap said on Sunday the country may import more rice to fill its needs for the first half of 2010 following hefty damage to crops.

While there were enough stocks of the national staple until year-end, output for the first two quarters of 2010 may be affected by the heavy rain and flooding brought by the two typhoons, said Yap.

Officials said some 5.5 billion pesos in crops, mostly rice about to be harvested, were damaged by Ketsana last week. The damage to bridges and roads was estimated at 1.6 billion pesos.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo declared a nationwide calamity on Friday to allow local governments to access emergency funds and cap the prices of essential goods.

She also ordered a one-year deferment in repayment of loans provided by state pension funds, part of liquidity-boosting measures to protect the economy following the massive typhoon devastation.

The Asia-Pacific region has been hit by a series of natural disasters, including Ketsana that killed more than 400 in the Philippines, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam.

Tens of thousands also were displaced in southern Laos and flash floods were reported in northern Thailand.

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.

(Additional reporting by Manolo Serapio Jr. and Ralph Jennings in TAIPEI)

(Writing by Raju Gopalakrishnan; Editing by Bill Tarrant)

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