AUTHORITIES are bracing for floods and landslides as Labuyo, the most powerful typhoon to hit the country this year, slams into Luzon on Monday.
The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) hoisted storm signal no. 3 in nine provinces, and warned that Labuyo (international codename Utor) will dump up to 25 millimeters of rain an hour within its 600-kilometer circle.
The typhoon, packing winds of 165 kph near the center and 200-kph gusts, is forecast to affect 36 provinces and Metro Manila.
As of 5 p.m. yesterday, Aurora, Nueva Vizcaya, Mountain Province, Polilio Island, Quirino, Benguet, Ifugao, Nueva Ecija and Isabela were under signal no. 3. Catanduanes, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Rizal, Northern Quezon, Bulacan, Pampanga, Tarlac, Pangasinan, La Union, Ilo–cos Sur, Abra, Apayao, Kalinga and Cagayan were under signal no. 2.
Signal no. 1 was raised over Metro Manila, Albay, Sorsogon, the rest of Quezon, Laguna, Ca–layan, Babuyan Islands, Ilocos Norte, Zambales, Bataan, Cavite and Batangas.
“This is forecast to be the strongest storm to make landfall so far this year,” bureau head Vicente Malano told reporters. “Residents in low lying and mountainous areas . . . are alerted against possible flash floods and landslides.”
The typhoon, the 12th to hit the country this year, is expected to hit land early today in Aurora.
As of yesterday afternoon, Labuyo was 130 km north of Virac, Catanduanes or 220 km southeast of Casiguran, Aurora. It is expected to blow out of the country tomorrow.
The National Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC) on Sunday raised the red alert in all regions in the typhoon’s path.
Undersecretary Eduardo del Rosario, NDRRMC executive director, said that under the red alert, all provincial and municipal risk reduction management units and the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) in affected areas take charge in monitoring the storm and preparing emergency measures.
Del Rosario said provincial disaster managers were ordered to implement preemptive evacuation in areas prone to landslides and flash floods.
As of 3 p.m. yesterday, 7,581 passengers, 33 vessels, 228 rolling cargoes, and 12 motorized boats were stranded because of the approaching storm, del Rosario said.
Stormy weather forced the Manila International Airport Authority to cancel some flights between Naga and Manila on Sunday.
In Catanduanes, 23 fishermen were reported missing while 10 others were rescued in the waters of Gigmoto.
Ten of the missing fishermen were from the town of Pandan, four from Gigmoto, three from Bagamanoc, three from Virac, and three from Caramoan.
The rescued fishermen were from San Miguel Island in Tabaco City, Albay.
On Saturday, local officials in Albay, Camarines Norte, Cama–rines Sur and Sorsogon ordered to stop fishermen from venturing out to sea.
Presidential deputy spokesman Abigail Valte Malacañang on Sunday assured that government is ready to help areas affected by Labuyo.
”We have to ensure the safety of the people. So we have to prepare),” Valte said.
About 20 typhoons hit the Philippines every year. Last December, nearly 2,000 were killed or missing in flash floods and landslides after Typhoon Pablo (Bopha) cut across Mindanao in December.
About 850,000 people were also displaced, and many of them remain in temporary shelters months after the typhoon.
The Hong Kong Observatory had classified Labuyo as a “severe typhoon” on its website on Sunday.
WITH REPORTS FROM BENJIE L. VERGARA, AFP AND PNA