Storm-battered Philippines prepares for typhoon
Fri, Oct 30, 2009

MANILA - Ferries were cancelled, schools closed and the military put on standby Friday as the storm-battered Philippines' main island of Luzon braced for another powerful typhoon, officials said.

Typhoon Mirinae, forecast to hit Luzon before dawn on Saturday, threw into chaos plans by millions of Filipinos to head back to their hometowns for a long-weekend holiday that is a traditional time for family reunions.

"If possible, do not travel on October 31," warned weather forecaster Bernie de Leon.

"If you are going somewhere, you better go now because even departing tonight might be too dangerous."

However, ferries, a cheap and popular form of travel in the Southeast Asian archipelago, were already cancelled on Friday in some parts of Luzon.

Mirinae, packing gusts of up to 185 kilometres (115 miles) an hour and carrying vast amounts of water, threatens to be the third killer storm to strike Luzon in just over a month.

Tropical Storm Ketsana claimed 464 lives as it dumped the heaviest rains in more than four decades on Manila and neighbouring areas of the capital on September 26.

Typhoon Parma struck further north of Luzon a week later, then caused massive flooding and landslides as it hovered over the region for about 10 days, claiming 465 lives.

Another 173 people have since died in and around Manila from a water-borne bacterial disease, with more than a million residents still living in flooded districts.

Mirinae is likely to bring more rain and misery to those flooded areas of Manila, and other parts of Luzon that were directly affected by the previous two storms, the state weather bureau said.

The bureau on Friday raised the second-level storm alert over most of the northern Philippines, including Manila, which meant schools were automatically closed.

The military was also sent to vulnerable areas, along with relief goods, to respond quickly in case of floods, landslides or other disasters.

De Leon, from the bureau, said Mirinae was expected to cut from eastern Luzon through to the western side of the island on Saturday.

This meant the full brunt of the storm would be felt a day ahead of All-Saints' Day, when millions of people in this largely Roman Catholic nation traditionally visit the graves of their relatives.

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