Philippines on full typhoon alert

The Philippines went on high alert Thursday as a 'super typhoon' threatened to unleash more devastation for millions of people already struggling to recover from deadly floods that claimed 277 lives.

Typhoon Parma was gaining strength as it churned towards the Southeast Asian nation and was expected to dump more heavy rain on areas still reeling from the weekend floods that forced nearly 700,000 people into evacuation camps.

"We are dealing with a very strong typhoon, so we should be at the highest level of preparedness," weather bureau spokesman Nathaniel Santiago said, amid forecasts the typhoon would make landfall on Saturday.

"There is a possibility that this will become a super typhoon."

The government defines a super typhoon as one with winds reaching 175-200 kilometres per hour 110-125 miles per hour with the potential to cause heavy damage.

While Parma is likely to bring less than half the rains of Saturday's tropical storm Ketsana, it was expected to compound flooding in Manila, parts of which remain submerged due to blocked drainage systems.

Ketsana dumped the heaviest rains in four decades on Manila and in surrounding areas on Luzon island, triggering floods that swamped the national capital with up to six metres 20 feet of water.

Ketsana has left 277 dead so far in the Philippines, according to the government, and killed about 100 more after pounding Vietnam and Cambodia.

The number of people known to have been affected by Ketsana in the Philippines rose to 2.5 million on Thursday, the government said in its latest update, up nearly 300,000 from Wednesday's estimate. Scene: flooded hospital

The number of flood survivors staying in gymnasiums, schools and other makeshift evacuation camps also continued to balloon, with about 687,000 people staying in them, the government said.

Those in the cramped, under-resourced evacuation centres were told to prepare for the new storm, with fresh rains certain to aggravate already squalid conditions.

As Typhoon Parma approached, worried Manila residents who had returned to their homes after the floodwaters receded, and those whose houses were unaffected, were stocking up on food and emergency lights.

Waitress Angel Francisco, 16, rushed back to check on her mother at their still-flooded home in suburban Pasig city.

"There's a new typhoon according to the news and I am worried for my mother, she told AFP, as she hitched a ride with a delivery truck to try and evacuate her mother.

Coast guard chief Admiral Wilfredo Tamayo said he had put his men on alert ahead of the typhoon.

Already packing gusts of up to 185 kilometers per hour 115 miles per hour, Parma was last monitored at 650 kilometers 400 miles east of Borongan town on the eastern island of Samar at dawn.

Parma was moving on a west-northwest trajectory toward the northern part of Luzon island and would likely hit land Saturday.

The lowest of a four-step storm signal was raised over the provinces of Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte and Catanduanes on Luzon's eastern coast, weather officials said, warning fishermen against venturing out to sea.

A member of the special warfare command poses for photographs as he parachutes from a helicopter near Seoul. REUTERS/Jo Yong-Hak