SORSOGON CITY: Hundreds of people fled their homes on the slopes of a rumbling Bulusan volcano on Friday as authorities warned of rain-driven mudflows from an approaching typhoon that could bury them alive.
Around 500 residents of farming villages around Bulusan volcano, many of them children and elderly women, boarded Army trucks clutching sleeping mats and bags of clothes as Typhoon Dodong (international name: Noul) bore down on the area.
“I have no choice but to evacuate. I may not be strong enough to outrun the mud flows,” 66-year-old housewife Dolores Guela said.
Officials said she and her meningitis-stricken nine-year-old granddaughter would be among about 1,000 people taken to temporary shelters to wait out the wrath of Dodong, which was forecast to bring heavy rains to the region from late Friday.
The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) on Friday raised public storm signal number 2 over the province of Catanduanes and signal number 1 over 11 provinces in Luzon and Visayas as Dodong maintained its strength and speed.
Weather forecaster Fernando Cada said that Catanduanes was under Signal No. 2 while Signal No. 1 is still hoisted over Luzon provinces of Sorsogon. Albay, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Quezon, Polillo Island, Aurora, Quirino, Isabela, Eastern Samar and Northern Samar in Visayas.
Signal No. 1 will be possibly raised over the provinces of Cagayan, Kalinga, Mt. Province, Ifugao, Nueva Vizcaya, Nueva Ecija, Bulacan, Rizal, Laguna.
Cada said that as of 4 p.m. Friday, Dodong was located at 510 km east of Sorsogon City with maximum sustained winds of 150 kilometers per hour (kph) near the center while its gustiness up to 185 kph.
Cada said typhoon “Dodong” accelerated its speed to 20 kph as it moves west-northwest in direction.
With its current speed and movement, he said it is expected to make landfall in Isabela-Cagayan area.
After making a landfall typhoon Dodong is expected to slightly weaken because normally, typhoons with such intensity slightly weakens because of presence of mountains when it hits land and probably as it exits PAR (Philippne Area of Responsibility), by Tuesday (May 12) headed towards Japan.
He added there is no possibility for Dodong to develop into a super typhoon.
Cada also said Metro Manila will experience light to moderate rains and thunderstorms on Saturday late evening or Sunday early morning.
The estimated rainfall amount is from heavy to intense within the 300 km diameter of the typhoon.
It is also possible for coastal areas to experience storm surge with 4.1-14.0 m wave height.
The state weather bureau also issued a gale warning as the sea condition will be rough to very rough, due to strong gale force winds which is expected to affect the eastern seaboards of Luzon and Visayas and seaboards of the provinces of Dinagat and Surigao.
”Fishing boats and other small seacrafts are advised not to venture out into the sea while larger sea vessels are alerted against big waves,” it warned.
PAGASA also said moderate to strong winds blowing from the northeast will prevail over the rest of eastern section of Luzon and from the northwest to southwest over Visayas and Mindanao. The coastal waters along these areas will be moderate to rough.
Experts warned debris from two recent ash explosions could rumble down the slopes of the 5,115-foot volcano.
State volcanologists subsequently raised Alert Level 1—the lowest in a five-step warning system—on Bulusan.
Minor ash explosions alone would not normally prompt an evacuation, but authorities ordered one nonetheless because of the threat of mud flows from the approaching storm.
Bulusan, on the southeastern tip of the main island of Luzon, is about 400 kilometers south of Metro Manila. It is among the country’s 23 active volcanoes.
Dodong would be the fourth major storm or typhoon to hit the Philippines this year. The disaster-prone nation is lashed by an average of 20 each year, routinely killing hundreds of people.
Aquino in touch
President Benigno Aquino 3rd, who is on a state visit to Canada, is being given hourly updates about the typhoon and government’s preparations to mitigate its possible onslaught, a Malacañang official said.
“Even now that the President is abroad, is overseas, he continues to receive these updates. And as you can see from the NDRRMC [National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council] meeting that was chaired by the Secretary of National Defense [Voltaire Gazmin], we want to make sure that preparations are in place and not just for briefings,” Palace deputy spokesman Abigail Valte said.
Gazmin said the NDRRMC has directed all regional and provincial officials to make preparations and ready evacuation centers in their areas.
In the meantime, there will be no preemptive evacuation in 11 provinces that will be directly hit by Dodong, said Edgar Allan Tabel, chief of the telecommunications division of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) at the sidelines of Friday’s NDRRMC briefing at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.