Manila: A new typhoon gathered strength on Thursday off the Philippines while nearly 700,000 people still sought help in badly stretched relief centres from massive flooding caused by Ketsana, one of the region's most destructive storms in years.
Ketsana prompted the worst flooding in the northern Philippines in 40 years when it struck on Saturday, and then continued its deadly path across Southeast Asia, blowing down wooden villages in Cambodia and crushing Vietnamese houses under mudslides on Tuesday.
The death toll climbed on Thursday to 362, and was still rising.
"We're used to storms that sweep away one or two houses. But I've never seen a storm this strong," said Nam Tum, Governor of Cambodia's Kampong Thom province.
The immediate threat from Ketsana eased as it was downgraded to a tropical depression as it crossed into a fourth nation, Laos. But its powerful winds and pummelling rain left a snaking trail of destruction.
Meanwhile, another typhoon gained strength as it moved toward the hard-hit northern Philippines. Typhoon Parma was 404 miles (650 kilometres) off the country's eastern coast Thursday, but was already bringing rain to eastern provinces.
Packing winds of 93 miles per hour (150 kilometres per hour) with gusts of up to 115 mph (185 kph), Parma was expected to hit land Saturday in the northeastern Philippines, weather forecaster Rommel Yutoc said.
Landslides triggered by Ketsana slammed into houses in central Vietnam on Tuesday, burying people including five members of the same family, the government said. The country's toll rose to 74 as officials recovered more bodies from the muck and swollen rivers, with 179 injured and a dozen missing, the government said late Wednesday.
It said the storm destroyed or damaged nearly 180,000 homes, inundated 150,000 more, and flattened crops across central Vietnam. More than 350,000 people were evacuated from the typhoon's path, posing a logistical headache to shelter and feed them.
"The scale of the devastation is stretching all of us," said Minnie Portales, a World Vision aid agency official in the Philippines. The agency said it was scrambling to assess the needs of victims in four countries, including the possibility that Laos would have damage.
Parts of two Vietnamese provinces remained cut off by floodwaters and downed trees and power lines on roads, officials said.
In neighbouring Cambodia, at least 11 people were killed and 29 injured Tuesday as the storm toppled dozens of rickety houses and swept away residents in the two provinces north of the capital that were hit. About 100 houses were destroyed and 400 others damaged, said Ly Thuch of the country's disaster management committee.
Five members of the same family died when their house collapsed as they ate dinner, said Neth Sophana of the Red Cross.
Authorities were searching for more victims and rushing food, medical supplies and plastic sheeting for temporary tents to storm-hit areas.
The cleanup task was enormous.
In the Philippines, officials said 2.5 million people had their homes swamped, and nearly 700,000 were seeking help in relief centres hastily set up in schools and other public buildings — even the presidential palace. The Philippines death toll stood at 277, with 42 people missing.
The international relief effort picked up pace, with condolence messages coming from Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, the EU, Japan, Germany and other nations. Many added pledges of aid to help the recovery.
Three helicopters and 30 rubber boats were being sent by the United Nations and would arrive with 72 hours, Teodoro said late Wednesday.
Philippine military spokesman Lt Col Romeo Brawner said at least 30 US Marines and Air Force personnel who were to attend two annual war exercises in the country would join the relief work, bringing trucks bulldozers and forklifts.
At relief centres, women and children clutching bags of belongings lined up for bottled water, boiled eggs and packets of instant noodles for a fifth day. Men waded through thick, gooey sludge back to their homes to clean up the mess with shovels and brooms.
The government estimated the damage cost at more than USD 100 million.
First Published: Thursday, October 01, 2009, 11:13