Image: Storm debris
Noel Celis  /  AFP-Getty Images
A mother and her child in Marikina, a Manila suburb, on Monday walk past debris left by two earlier storms in the Philippines.
updated 10/20/2009 10:15:18 AM ET 2009-10-20T14:15:18

The Philippines put seven northern coastal areas on alert Tuesday for fast-approaching Typhoon Lupit, as the church offered prayers that the storm will spare the battered country still reeling from deadly floods and landslides.

Lupit is forecast to make landfall Thursday in the extreme north of the main island of Luzon with winds of 120 miles per hour and gusts of up to 143 mph, the weather bureau reported.

The third storm in a month was projected to slice through northeastern Cagayan and neighboring provinces toward the South China Sea, dumping heavy rainfall in and around the mountainous north where mudslides set off by back-to-back storms since Sept. 26 killed more than 850 people.

The government was moving fast to prevent any loss of life this time, stocking up on food and clothes and moving residents out of harm's way.

"These days we no longer have a problem convincing residents to evacuate," said Loreto Espineli, police chief in Benguet province where 300 people died early this month.

Village heads were using megaphones to warn about the impending typhoon, and sirens will be sounded once it makes landfall, Espineli told The Associated Press.

"We will force them to leave if they don't want to," he said. "It is easier to evacuate people than to dig for bodies after a mudslide."

The Roman Catholic Church published a full-page prayer for deliverance from typhoons in a national broadsheet Tuesday.

Lamenting that "global warming is upon us," the prayer asks God to spare Filipinos "from the threat of calamities, natural and manmade."

"The environment is made to suffer our wrongdoing, and now we reap the harvest of our abuse and indifference," said the prayer, which is mandated to be read at Mass.

Lupit — a Filipino word for cruel — will likely spare the capital, Manila, which was submerged in the worst flooding in 40 years after Tropical Storm Ketsana unleashed heavy rains Sept. 26, said the head of the Philippine weather agency, Frisco Nilo.

Ketsana and Typhoon Parma on Oct. 3 killed 858 people and inundated the homes of more than 7 million.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has blamed extreme weather caused by climate change but her critics say the calamity was magnified by poor city planning and millions of squatters living along riverbanks and blocking waterways with their shanties. The urban poor, sources of cheap labor and votes during elections, make up for almost half of Manila's 12 million people.

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