Powerful typhoon barrels into Bicol, Eastern Visayas
More than 700,000 people in Eastern Visayas and the Bicol Region fled to safer areas for fear of giant waves, floods or landslides as Typhoon Nona (international name: Melor) slammed into the country on Monday, two days after it entered the Philippine area of responsibility, officials said.
Nona made two landfalls, the first at 11 a.m. Monday on Batag island in Northern Samar, state weather forecasters said.
It made a second landfall over Bulusan, Sorsogon, later at 4 p.m.
Signal No. 3 is hoisted in Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte, Catanduanes, Sorsogon, Albay, Masbate including Ticao and Burias Islands, southern Quezon, Marinduque, Romblon and Northern Samar.
Signal No.2 is up in Oriental Mindoro, Occidental Mindoro including Lubang Island, Batangas, Laguna, Cavite, the rest of Quezon including Polilio Island, Eastern Samar and Biliran while under Signal No. 1 are Metro Manila, Bataan, Bulacan, Pampanga, southern Zambales, southern Aurora, Coron (Palawan), Leyte, northern Cebu including Bantayan and Camotes islands, Aklan, Capiz, northern Antique, northern Negros Occidental and northern Iloilo.
State weather forecasters underscored that the typhoon has a 400-kilometer radius, so its effects will be felt in places far from the point of landfall.
Metro Manila and adjacent provinces, for example, are already under Storm Signal No. 1.
Nona gained strength over the weekend as it approached the Philippines, but maintained a strength of 150 kilometers per hour and gustiness of up to 185 kph as of noon Monday.
It brushed the northern tip of Samar, a farming island of 1.5 million people, early Monday with winds gusting up to 185 kph, the state weather bureau Pagasa said.
There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage.
Samar was among areas devastated in 2013 by Super Typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan), when giant waves wiped out entire communities and left 7,350 people dead or missing.
Authorities warned that the powerful winds of Nona had the potential to whip up four-meter-high (13-feet) waves, blow off tin roofs and uproot trees.
They said heavy rain within its 300-kilometer diameter could trigger floods and landslides.
In Albay, almost 600,000 people were evacuated for fears that heavy rain could cause mudslides on the slopes of nearby Mayon Volcano, according to the national disaster monitoring office.
Residents carrying bags of clothes and water jugs clambered onto army trucks in Legazpi City as authorities sounded an evacuation alarm, according to an Agence France-Presse photographer at the scene.
Huge waves crashed into the city’s deserted boulevard as palm trees swayed.
Albay, a province of 1.2 million people, has become a model for disaster preparedness.
It recorded zero casualties from Typhoon Ruby (international name: Hagupit) last year because of prompt evacuations.
An additional 130,000 people were evacuated in Sorsogon.
Albay Gov Joey Salceda on Sunday ordered mandatory evacuation of people living in coastal, flood and landslide-prone areas as a precaution.
“If you refuse to evacuate as early as Monday morning, then save yourself as we will not allow our disaster responders to go out at the height of the typhoon. I will not be here to save you. So, follow our directives to go on safer grounds before Nona’s landfall,” Salceda said.
“We will be giving you food ration, five kilos of rice and canned goods for your food allocation but please be on the designated evacuation areas as soon as possible for your safety,” the governor added.
Legazpi City Mayor Noel Rosal convened the city disaster officials on Monday morning where he imposed the mandatory evacuation of villagers living in coastal areas and at the foot of Mayon Volcano.
“We want the residents living at the foot of Mayon Volcano to be evacuated immediately as Typhoon Nona will be bringing in torrential rains, which might cause flooding and remobilize volcanic materials from upper slopes to low lying areas,” Rosal said.
Similarly, he ordered residents living in the coastal areas to be evacuated to safety. “Food is ready to be distributed to our evacuees,” he added.
The Diocese of Legazpi led by Bishop Joel Baylon reinstituted the harong program to help poor families in the evacuation areas.
Bernardo Rafaelito Alejandro, Office of Civil Defense regional director and regional disaster-management chairman in Bicol, told The Manila Times, “Our response teams are ready…we will do our very best to attain the zero casualty goal of the government.”
The typhoon is expected to cut across the central heartland in the early hours of Tuesday before heading out to the South China Sea.
Stormy weather has forced the cancellation of 40 domestic flights and halted 625 passenger and cargo ferry trips, authorities said.
The government had prepared more than 200,000 food packs and other emergency items before the storm’s landfall, Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman told dzMM radio.
The Philippines is battered by an average of 20 typhoons annually.
Typhoon Lando (international name: Koppu), the last deadly storm to hit the country, killed 54 people and forced tens of thousands to flee their homes after it pummeled the North in October.
Classes have been suspended in various areas on Tuesday because of the expected onslaught of Nona.
As of 4 p.m. Monday, the following local government units have declared suspension of classes on Tuesday as posted on the official Facebook page of the Department of Education: Batangas City (all levels), Masbate (all levels) and Oriental Mindoro (all levels up to December 16).
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) went on red alert ahead of the typhoon’s expected landfall in Sorsogon province on Monday night.
The NDRRMC said the red alert was raised to “ensure dissemination of weather advisories and 24-hour public weather forecasts” to all of its regional offices.
It added that the Department of the Interior and Local Government has alerted all local government officials in areas that are in the projected path of the typhoon.
The NDRRMC said that the Department of Social Welfare and Development had pre-positioned P25 million in standby funds, 263,223 family food packs and P185 million million worth of food and non-food items in its fields offices in Calabarzon, Mimaropa, Bicol Region, Western Visayas, Central Visayas, Eastern Visayas and Metro Manila.
The military has ordered its units to monitor landslide- and flood-prone areas.
The NDRRMC said the Armed Forces has been directed to assist in preemptive evacuation of residents in areas at risk from the effects of the approaching typhoon.
The Naval Forces Northern Luzon has readied its patrol boats for rescue and evacuation efforts while the Southern Luzon Command placed its helicopters and Quick Response Disaster Response Operations teams on standby.
The Department of Health has also placed hospitals in areas in the path of the typhoon on code white alert, which refers to the preparedness of hospital manpower to respond to any emergency situation.
Disaster response troops, equipment and supplies were prepositioned to disaster-prone areas threatened by Nona in Luzon and the Visayas as Oplan Saklolo went into full swing ahead of the typhoon’s expected landfall, Police Director Wilfredo Franco, PNP Director for Police Community Relations and concurrent Task Group Commander, said.
Franco added that the National Headquarters Disaster Incident Management Task Group (NHQ-DIMTG) was activated to coordinate all disaster response operations of PNP units in areas along the path of Nona.
The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) shut down the Legazpi Airport on Monday.
At least 483 passengers in Legazpi Airport were already affected by flight cancellations, CAAP said.
Ninety passengers of Philippine Airlines bound for Manila were also affected by the flight cancellation.
The CAAP said the Tacloban Airport has conducted disaster action procedures..
The airports in Catarman, Calbayog, Ormoc, Hilongos and Maasin (all in Samar and Leyte) have been secured.
Provincial buses halted
The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) also on Monday ordered a halt in operations of provincial buses with RORO (roll-on/roll-off) routes in areas affected by Typhoon Nona.
In an order signed by LTFRB Chairman Winston Ginez, the board noted that the order was made upon recommendation of the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA).
LTFRB board member Ariel Inton said as soon as the typhoon leaves the country, normal operations will resume.
The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) suspended the operations of the Pasig River Ferry System also on Monday after Metro Manila was placed under Signal No. 1.
MMDA General Manager Corazon Jimenez said whenever Metro Manila is under a storm signal, operation of the Pasig Ferry is automatically suspended.
The Supreme Court (SC) has allowed executive judges to suspend work at trial courts in areas affected or set to be affected by the typhoon.
In an advisory from the SC Public Information Office, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno authorized the trial court executive judges “to take all necessary measures, including suspension of work.”
Power lines hit
The National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) also on Monday reported that its transmission line in the Visayas have been affected by Typhoon Nona.