MANILA, Philippines? (UPDATE) A monster typhoon locally called ?Santi??a French nickname derived from a pious person?Thursday barreled toward Central Luzon, threatening to spoil All Saints? Day commemorations at the weekend, weathermen said.
The fourth typhoon to wallop the Philippines in just over a month was packing more punch as it swirled toward the country with peak winds of 150 kilometers per hour gusting up to 185 kph.
?We have a 30-percent probability the typhoon might pass Metro Manila,? said Prisco Nilo, director of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA).
?It would be better not to travel to the provinces because you might get stranded,? he said.
In its 5 a.m. bulletin Friday, PAGASA located Santi (international name: Mirinae) at 580 km east northeast of Infanta, Quezon, moving west southwest at 22 kph. It was expected to smash into Quezon on Saturday.
?There is a possibility this typhoon would strengthen since it still has time before it hits land. The strength would be enough to cause some damage,? Nilo said. ?We also expect it would bring a lot of rain.?
Troops on alert
Over 1,000 troops in Metro Manila were placed on ?blue alert??on call 24 hours in case of emergency in Metro Manila.
Parts of the metropolis were still under water after Tropical Storm ?Ondoy? (Ketsana) dumped a record rainfall on Sept. 26 and triggered widespread flooding.
Ondoy and Typhoon ?Pepeng? (Parma) that came a week later left a combined death toll of nearly 1,000. Typhoon ?Ramil? (Lupit) last week drenched northern Luzon, but swirled northward toward Japan before it could do damage.
Nilo said sea travel should be good until this morning and air travel until the afternoon. But he warned ?it might be dangerous? for commuters to travel by road except to provinces south of Metro Manila.
In its weather update Friday, PAGASA raised Signal No. 3 over Polillo Islands; Signal No. 2 over Aurora, Quirino, Nueva Ecija, Bulacan, Tarlac, Zambales, Pampanga, Bataan, Rizal, Laguna, Cavite, Batangas, Lubang Island, Quezon, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Catanduanes and Metro Manila, and Signal No. 1 over Isabela, Ifugao, Benguet, Nueva Vizcaya, La Union, Pangasinan, Albay, Burias Island, Sorsogon, Marinduque, Oriental Mindoro, Occidental Mindoro and the Calamian group of islands.
Rescue teams deployed
Capt. Michael Aquino, spokesperson of the National Capital Region Command, said fully equipped rescue units had been deployed in flood-prone areas of Metro Manila.
Lt. Col. Ernesto Torres Jr., of the National Disaster Coordinating Council, also said that medical teams had been alerted.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines and other government agencies have been directed to reinforce police in Metro Manila directing traffic and controlling crowd in cemeteries.
Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro Jr. on Wednesday advised residents on Santi?s path to forego visiting the cemetery on All Saints? Day to avoid getting trapped by possible floodwaters.
Pre-positioning relief goods
Also Thursday, the government dispatched trucks loaded with food packs to Luzon provinces that are in the path of the approaching typhoon.
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo saw off the trucks laden with food and other provisions on the Diosdado Macapagal Avenue in Pasay City at around 6 a.m.
?The main objective is to preposition these relief goods in preparation for Typhoon Santi,? Undersecretary Lorelei Fajardo, deputy presidential spokesperson, said in a briefing.
The drop-off points are Pangasinan for Region 1; Pampanga, Nueva Ecija and Tarlac for Region 3; Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon for Region 4-A; and Camarines Norte and Sur, Sorsogon, Albay and Catanduanes for Region 5.
?We witnessed in Ondoy and Pepeng that there were areas in some remote barangays that were difficult to reach because these were isolated. So this is what we want to avoid, that?s why we are pre-positioning these goods,? Fajardo said.
The supplies consisted of food packs, potable water, mats, blankets and clothing. With reports from Alcuin Papa, Jocelyn R. Uy, TJ Burgonio, Riza T. Olchondra, and Gabriel Cardinoza, Inquirer Northern Luzon