SUPER typhoon “Lawin” forced weather forecasters to hoist their highest warning – Signal No. 5 – over Cagayan, Isabela, Kalinga and Apayao provinces on Wednesday, with the approaching severe weather disturbance packing heavy rains within a diameter exceeding that of “Yolanda (Haiyan)” in 2013.
Disaster agencies braced for the worst as the Philippine Athmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) placed 36 areas in Luzon, including Metro Manila, under tropical cyclone warning signals.
“Lawin,” the twelfth and so far the strongest cyclone to hit the country this year, was expected to make landfall in Cagayan or Isabela between 11 p.m. on Wednesday and 2 a.m. on Thursday, and cross Apayao and Ilocos Norte before exiting Philippine territory either Thursday evening or early Friday morning.
Pagasa said Lawin (international name “Haima”) posed a serious threat to Cagayan and Isabela, with rainfall expected to be moderate to heavy within its diameter of 800 kilometers covering a huge part of Luzon.
Lawin packed maximum sustained winds of up to 225 kilometers per hour (kph) and gustiness of up to 315 kph when it was last located at 275 kilometers (km) east southeast of Tuguegarao, Cagayan. It was moving west northwest at 24 kph.
Pagasa raised Signal No. 4 over Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Abra, Mountain Province, Ifugao, and the Calayan Group of Islands.
The provinces of La Union, Benguet, Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino and northern Aurora were placed under Signal No. 3.
Signal No. 2 was hoisted over Batanes, Pangasinan, the rest of Aurora, Tarlac, Nueva Ecija, northern Zambales, northern Quezon, and Polillo Islands.
Signal No. 1 was hoisted over Bulacan, Bataan, Pampanga, Rizal, the rest of Quezon and Zambales, Laguna, Batangas, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Catanduanes, Albay and Metro Manila.
Pagasa advised the public, especially residents in areas lying within Lawin’s scope, to expect landslides, flash
floods and storm surges of up to five meters.
Lawin may also unleash destructive rains and winds even in provinces outside its landfall area.
Sea travel will be hazardous over the eastern seaboard of southern Luzon and the northern and eastern seabords of Samar, the weather agency said.
Several local government units have announced class suspensions at all levels for Thursday.
As of 4 p.m., classes in the following areas were suspended at all levels, in public and private schools: Isabela, Apayao, Mountain Province, Nueva Ecija, Batangas, San Fernando, La Union, Abra, Baguio, Benguet, Cagayan and Ilocos Norte.
Classes in elementary and high school in Metro Manila were also suspended.
In anticipation of the massive impact of the typhoon, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) prepared to deliver relief goods to areas expected to be battered by Lawin.
The department was set to deliver 15,000 family food packs (FFP) and 450 relief bags to San Fernando, Pampanga; 5,000 FFPs to Palayan, Nueva Ecija; 3,000 bottles of drinking water to Tuguegarao, Cagayan; 5,000 FFPs to Baler, Aurora; 1,700 FFPs to Real, Quezon; and 100 camping lamps and 100 solar panels to the Office of Civil Defense in the Cordillera region.
“We urge the public to remain prepared and vigilant for the coming Typhoon ‘Lawin.’ ‘Lawin’ is not an ordinary typhoon, it can become a Super Typhoon. We do not want to repeat what happened during ‘Yolanda.’ We request the public to cooperate with us and with their local governments so that everyone will be safe,” said DSWD Secretary Judy Taguiwalo.
Red alert stays
Disaster teams, including at least 166 disaster response units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, have been put on standby as the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council braced for the super typhoon.
Preemptive evacuation was ordered in the provinces of Cagayan, Isabela and Ilocos Norte, said Edgar Allan Tabell, chief of the Interior department’s Central Office Disaster Information Coordinating Center, in a news conference at Camp Aguinaldo.
Disaster officials were awaiting reports of similar actions from Ilocos Sur and other provinces, he said.
The council’s operations center remained on “red alert” status, the same level since the onslaught of Typhoon “Karen” (international name “Sarika”) last week.