Country braces for ‘Yolanda’

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Philippine Coast Guard personnel inflate newly acquired rubber boats for deployment to the Bicol region which is expected to be directly hit by supertyphoon ‘Yolanda’. PHOTO BY RENE H. DILAN

Philippine Coast Guard personnel inflate newly acquired rubber boats for deployment to the Bicol region which is expected to be directly hit by supertyphoon ‘Yolanda’. PHOTO BY RENE H. DILAN

The government has ordered the forced evacuation of people in areas prone to floods and landslides ahead of an approaching super typhoon.

Storm warning signal number 4 is expected to be raised over parts of Eastern Visayas and Southern Luzon as the typhoon with international name Haiyan, enters the country’s area of responsibility on Thursday, the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) said on Wednesday.

Pagasa Senior Weather Forecaster Mario Palafox said “Haiyan,” will be renamed “Yolanda” once it hits Philippine territory.

The storm will cut through Visayas on Friday before exiting through Mindoro on Sunday.


Speaking to reporters, Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said President Benigno Aquino 3rd ordered Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, head of the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC), to carry out the preemptive evacuation of residents in the threatened areas, and for local governments to prepare shelters and preposition relief goods.

Areas in Haiyan’s path are Metro Manila and the regions of Calabarzon, Mimaropa, Bicol, Western Visayas, Central Visayas, Eastern Visayas, Caraga and Northern Mindanao.

”Rescue boats and emergency relief and medical supplies have been prepositioned in strategic areas,” Coloma said.

As of Wednesday, Haiyan was churning the Pacific Ocean with maximum sustained winds of 150 kilometers per hour and gustiness of up to 185 kph.

It is forecast to move west-northwest at 30 kph. If it does not veer from that track, typhoon will hit land in the Samar-Leyte area on Friday.

If its wind exceeds 185 kph, the agency will raise signal no. 4 over Samar, Leyte, Masbate, North of Panay, Romblon, Mindoro and islands of North Palawan.

Palafox said the winds might bring extensive damage to coconut plantation, houses and buildings, uproot many large trees and cut power lines.

Signal no. 4 conditions include “very strong winds of more than 185 kilometers per hour for at least 12 hours.”

Palafox said the agency has no classification for “super typhoon” which the Hawaii-based Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) reserves for storms with wind speeds of 241 kph or stronger.

Palafox said signal number 4 was last raised over the Batanes Islands last September 20 because to Typhoon Odette.

He said that in 2010 Signal no.4 was raised over Isabela which suffered heavy damage to agriculture and infrastructure from typhoon Juan.

Palafox said the approaching storm could still intensify become even stronger than last December Typhoon Pablo, which ravaged several areas in Mindanao.

Pablo affected over 6.2 million people in 34 provinces and killed at least 1,067, according to the latest data of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

In Bicol, provincial governments plan to evacuate close to 1.7 million people starting on Thursday.

Tons of volcanic debris on the slopes of Mount Bulusan in Sorsogon and Mayon Volcano in Albay could be loosened by rain and endanger low flying areas, Alex Baloloy of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) warned disaster officials and responders in Legazpi City.

“Extreme rainfall may trigger landslides and excessive erosion of old pyroclastic deposits in the upper slopes of Mayon volcano, generating lahar in all river drainages. Potentially large magnitude lahars can threaten downstream communities all river channels with inundation burial and washout,” Baloloy said.

The barangays threatened by lahar flows are Masarawag, Maninila, Maipon, Tandarora and San Rafael in Guinobatan; Tumpa, Soa, Maninila, Quirangay, Salugan, Libod in Camalig; Busay, Binitayan, Tagas and Kilicao in Daraga; Lidong, San Isidro, San Antonio in Sto. Domingo town; Binitayan in Malilipot; Hindi in Bacacay; San Vicente in Tabaco City; Nabunton and Nasisi in Ligao City; Mabinit, Bonga, Pawa, Buyuan, Padang and Bigaa in Legazpi City.

In Sorsogon, extreme rainfall could erode pyroclastic deposits in the upper slopes of Bulusan volcano, triggering lahars in rivers draining the southeastern, southwestern and northwestern flanks.

Phivolcs has recommended the preemptive evacuation of communities in pre-determined zones of high lahar hazards in Mayon and Bulusan volcanoes.

In Biliran, Gov. Gerry Boy Espina, chair of the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (PDRRMC), Wednesday ordered all classes suspended Thursday ahead of the super typhoon.

Classes were also called off in Cebu City and Lapu-lapu City.

In Western Visayas, all government hospitals were put on Code White Alert.

RHAYDZ B. BARCIA, CATHERINE S. VALENTE AND PNA

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