Tropical storm drifts away from Philippines

Philippines Asia Storm
Josette Sheeran, executive director of the United Nation World Food Program, shows some of the high-energy biscuits that will be distributed to flood-hit areas of the Philippines. Sheeran spoke Friday at Villamor Air Base in Pararnaque south of Manila. Pat Roque / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Tropical Storm Lupit drifted away from the Philippines on Saturday after a week of zigzagging across the rain-soaked north, allowing residents who had been evacuated to return to their homes.

The erratic direction of Lupit — meaning cruel in Filipino — had baffled forecasters. The typhoon was expected to ram into northeastern Cagayan province Friday, but weakened into a tropical storm and stayed offshore.

It was the third successive storm in a month to threaten the region. Authorities shepherded at least 2,500 people to seek shelter following back-to-back typhoons in late September and early October that killed nearly 1,000 people, most of them buried in mudslides.

On Saturday, Lupit moved further northeast of the Batanes islands in the country's northernmost tip. It was still packing winds of up to 59 miles per hour and gusts of up to 75 mph.

Government forecaster Manny Mendoza said Lupit may be out of Philippine territory and closer to southern Japan by late Sunday.

Northern provinces enjoyed sunny but partly cloudy weather as Lupit drifted away.

Lt. Col. Ernesto Torres, spokesman of the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC), said residents who were evacuated to pre-empt casualties were being told they may go home. Relief and rescue units were being pulled out, with operations terminated Saturday morning, he said.

Melchito Castro, regional head of the Office of Civil Defense in Cagayan, said some of the displaced people began going home Saturday from schools and village halls that were used to house them.

"It's such a relief," Castro told The Associated Press. "Imagine for a week we were waiting for what would happen — whether it would make landfall or not."

About 20 typhoons slice through the northern Philippines each year during the June to December rainy season.