Typhoon Mitag roared closer to the northeastern Philippines yesterday, causing floods that killed at least six people while a deadly storm that blew away days earlier headed back, complicating emergency preparations across the country.
Five people drowned and one was electrocuted over the weekend due to floods set off by Mitag, which was powering over the Philippine Sea toward the eastern coast of the country's main island of Luzon, Health Secretary Francisco Duque said.
The deaths occurred in Camarines Sur Province, southeast of Manila. Hospitals in areas at risk were ordered to stay open 24 hours, Duque said.
Mitag, with sustained winds of 160kph and gusts of 195kph, was expected to slam into the coast of northern Isabela Province before dawn today.
Approaching at 15kph, it was forecast to then blow across the mountainous north before exiting into the South China Sea on Wednesday, government forecaster Frisco Nilo said.
Mitag has been the most erratic of the 13 typhoons and major storms that have hit the Philippines this year. It first headed for the populous Bicol region, where more than 250,000 were evacuated, but shifted on Saturday to a new northerly course, Nilo said.
As authorities scrambled to shift evacuation efforts and emergency preparations to Mitag's new target areas in the northern provinces of Isabela, Aurora and Cagayan, forecasters said a typhoon that killed 13 people in the Philippines last week before heading for Vietnam had reversed direction and was moving back toward the central Philippines.
Hagibis, which weakened to a tropical storm on Friday, was expected to lash the western Philippine province of Palawan tomorrow, Nilo said.
Disaster-response agencies, along with troops and police officers, were ordered to brace again for Hagibis, Nilo said.
Mitag and Hagibis were influencing each other, resulting in their erratic movements, he said. Government forecasters were also monitoring a new low-pressure area that could develop into a storm over the Pacific Ocean and affect the Philippines in a few days, Nilo said.
Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's Cabinet and disaster relief agency officials went on national television four times to explain the emergency preparations.
"We're ready. We're expanding preparedness measures. These typhoons are moving slowly so they could dump a lot of rain," said Glen Rabonza, administrator of the Office of Civil Defense.
Coastguard spokesman Lieutenant Armand Balilo said Filipino and Chinese authorities were still searching for the 26 Filipino fishermen whose fishing boat capsized in the South China Sea on Friday.
The Central Weather Bureau broadcast a torrential rain alert yesterday for north and northeast Taiwan.
The heavy rain, brought by the outer currents of Mitag, is expected to last until at least today.
The bureau also said yesterday that a typhoon alert could be made today.
Mitag could possibly take a turn toward Taiwan because of the Fujiwhara Effect caused by its proximity to Hagibis.
Should Mitag come closer to Taiwan more heavy rain can be expected in the north.
Additional reporting by Meggie Lu