No electricity in many areas ahead of start of Christmas season
Tattered lanterns, festive lights and tin roofs littered towns in the Bicol and Eastern Visayas regions on Tuesday after Typhoon Nona (international name: Melor) swept through, killing at least four people and leaving millions without power ahead of Christmas.
Authorities confirmed that the typhoon’s violent winds and heavy downpour claimed four lives.
The first identified casualty is Pascual Ancente Jr., 31, of Allen, Northern Samar. He died from multiple wounds and head trauma after a tin roofing sheet hit him.
The second casualty is Tessie Villaneuva Baladad, 38, of Caguingay village, Lope de Vega,
Northern Samar. She drowned in Catarman, the provincial capital.
Another casualty is Abundio Bello, 83, of San Jose village, Lope de Vega town. The old man collapsed while heading to an evacuation center.
In the remote village of Maduroto, Matuguinao, Samar, flooding drowned Jason Blesario, 28.
Two teams from the Department of Health have been going around Northern Samar, Eastern Samar and Samar provinces to check on deaths and injuries among the townsfolk.
The RDRRMC (Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council) is yet to receive reports on the number of persons injured during the onslaught of the typhoon.
New LPA spotted
Weathermen have monitored a low pressure area (LPA) east of Mindanao but still out of the PAR.
According to forecaster Aurelio, the LPA was last spotted 1,645 kilometers east southeast of Mindanao and is moving westward.
It is expected to enter PAR by Wednesday.
Aurelio said since it is still in the Philippine Sea, there is a possibility that it may become a typhoon. Once it becomes a typhoon, it will be locally named “Onyok”.
Distraught survivors surveyed their damaged homes on the eve of the traditional nine-day Christmas vigil that Filipinos observe with dawn Masses and rice cakes.
Christmas is the most celebrated holiday in the Philippines, where 80 percent of its 100 million people are Catholic, and decorations such as colorful lights and lanterns have already been put up in most towns.
“It will be a very sad Christmas and a dark one because we have no power. But the important thing is everyone around me is still moving,” 54-year-old rice farmer Noemi Pesigan said.
Nona blew out the windows of Pesigan’s two-story brick and wood house in Bulan, Sorsogon. She survived the storm by sheltering in a nearby shop.
The typhoon tore in off the Pacific Ocean on Monday afternoon and hit farming and fishing communities in Bicol and Eastern Visayas with winds of up to 185 kilometers an hour.
Three people were killed in floods in Northern Samar, which faces the Pacific, municipal disaster officer Jonathan Baldo told dzMM radio.
Flying debris also killed a man in Northern Samar, national disaster agency spokesman Mina Marasigan said, without being able to confirm the other three fatalities.
Nona weakened slightly as it cut across the central islands of the archipelago, but on Tuesday afternoon its wind gusts were still reaching 170 kilometers an hour as it passed over the island of Mindoro.
It was due to move out into the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) on Tuesday afternoon.
Authorities were yet to make contact with some of the badly hit areas and it was unclear if or by how much the death toll would climb.
President Benigno Aquino 3rd also on Tuesday ordered the immediate restoration of power supply and clearing operations in areas hit by the typhoon.
According to Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr., the President ordered all government agencies must set their sight on Mindoro province where the howler made landfall.
“In line with the President’s directives, NDRRMC [National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council] is focusing on restoration of power and communications and debris-clearing operations in typhoon affected areas. Mindoro situation is being closely monitored due to continuous rains,” Coloma said in a text message to reporters.
“NDRRMC will coordinate with local DRRMCs on when those in evacuation centers may be allowed to return to their homes,” the official added.
The typhoon has displaced nearly 8,000 families or 30,851 persons in the three Samar provinces. More than 20,000 remained in evacuation centers on Tuesday.
People remained in evacuation centers in Basey, Gandara, San Jorge, San Jose de Buan, Santa Margarita and Villareal in Samar; Arteche, Jipapad, Maslog, Oras and San Policarpo in Eastern Samar; and Biri, Catarman, Catubig, Laoang, Lapinig, Lope de Vega, Rosario, San Antonio and San Jose in Northern Samar.
In Bicol, a vast region in the east often hit by typhoons, authorities credited the early evacuation of 720,000 people for what they believed would be a low death toll.
“We have zero floods, zero deaths, zero casualties,” Albay Gov. Joey Salceda told ABS-CBN television.
But he said the entire province of 1.2 million people was without power.
“What we are asking for is the early restoration of electricity,” he said.
Residents of neighboring Sorsogon were also without power on Tuesday, and authorities could give no guarantees if electricity would be restored by Christmas.
“Our target is to restore power by Christmas, but it will still depend on many factors,” NDRRMC spokesman Marasigan said.
She added that the timing would depend on how badly damaged towns were, and how much cleaning up of roads was required before teams could go in to put up new power poles and lines.
The Philippines is hit by an average of 20 typhoons a year, many of them deadly, with the strongest often happening toward the end of the year.
Last year, 53 people died in floods and landslides after Typhoon Seniang (international name: Jangmi) hit another part of the eastern Philippines five days after Christmas, catching many people on holidays off guard.
The last deadly storm to hit the country this year, Lando (Koppu), killed 54 people and forced tens of thousands to flee their homes after it pummeled rice-growing northern provinces in October.
In November 2013, one of the strongest typhoons on record, Yolanda (Haiyan), flattened entire communities in the central region with tsunami-like waves, leaving 7,350 people dead or missing.
According to the state weather bureau Pagasa, Nona slowed down as it crossed Northern Mindoro Tuesday afternoon.
It made its third landfall on Burias Island around 9:45 p.m. Monday; fourth landfall in Banton, Romblon around 5:30 a.m. Tuesday; and fifth landfall over Oriental Mindoro around 10:30 a.m. also on Tuesday.
As of 4 p.m. Tuesday, Nona was tracked over Santa Cruz, Oriental Mindoro.
Weather forecaster Aldczar Aurelio said Nona packs maximum sustained winds of 140 kilometers per hour near the center with gustiness of up to 170 kph. It is forecast to move west at 11 kph.
The estimated rainfall amount of the typhoon is from moderate to heavy within the 250 kilometer diameter of the typhoon.
By Wednesday afternoon, it will just become a Severe Tropical Storm, and downgraded to Tropical Depression on Thursday and a Low Pressure Area by Friday.
By Wednesday afternoon, Nona will be at 235 kilometers west of Calapan City (Oriental Mindoro), and 325 kilometers northwest of Puerto Princesa City (Palawan) on Thursday afternoon.
Public Storm Warning Signal (PSWS) Number 3 was raised over Oriental Mindoro and Occidental Mindoro including Lubang Island while Signal Number 2 is up over Batangas, Cavite, Marinduque, Romblon and Calamian group of Islands.
Signal Number 1 remains in Metro Manila, Bataan, Southern Zambales, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, Rizal, Quezon and northern Palawan
Flash floods and landslides are expected over the areas under signals 2 and 3, while storm surges of up to 2 meters are possible.
Meanwhile, strong to gale force winds are expected to affect the seaboards of Northern Luzonand Central Luzon.
Fishing boats and other small seacraft were advised not to venture out into the sea while larger sea vessels were alerted against big waves.
Stormy weather will be experienced over Mindoro provinces, Batangas, Cavite, Marinduque, Romblon and the islands of Calamian with rough to very rough seas.
Rains with gusty winds is expected over Metro Manila, Bataan, Southern Zambales, Bulacan, Laguna, Rizal, Quezon, Antique and Northern Palawan including Cuyo Island.
Cloudy skies with light to moderate rains and isolated thunderstorms will be experienced over the rest of Luzon and Western Visayas.
Partly cloudy to cloudy skies with isolated rainshowers or thunderstorms will prevail over the rest of the country.
Metro Manila on yellow alert
The Metro Manila Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (MMDRRMC) was placed on “yellow alert” because of the onslaught of Nona.
Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chairman Emerson Carlos, who also heads the MMDRRMC, said 30 percent of the MMDA’s personnel and equipment are ready for immediate deployment to address any eventuality caused by the typhoon.
Carlos said the team that includes personnel from Road Emergency, Communications, Flood Control and Traffic Groups are ready for deployment while dump trucks, rubber and wooden boats and other heavy and light equipment have been prepared for dispatch.
During the meeting with 17 DRRMCs, he added, they have asked different local government units (LGUs) and national agencies about their preparations for the typhoon.
Carlos noted that the 17 LGUs are already on standby and based on their report they were ready, prepared and continuously monitoring the situation of weather.
He said all over the region, clearing group and flood and traffic composite teams have been deployed to flood-prone areas.
At the same time, the MMDA chief urged building contractors to secure their cranes and other equipment to prevent any accident.
Carlos said the MMDRRMC has approved a resolution urging the LGUs to see to it that cranes used for construction purposes are locked down amid the typhoon’s strong winds.
He added that they have asked the LGUs to order their building officials to secure their tower cranes found in ongoing projects of high-rise buildings.
“This is upon the recommendation of the DPWH [Department of Public Works and Highways]. We have discussed that there is a need to secure or lock all tower cranes in anticipation of strong winds,” Carlos said after the MMDRRMC meeting.
Catarman airport heavily hit
Strong winds from Nona damaged the Catarman Airport in Samar, the Civil Aviation authority of the Philippines (CAAP) said also on Tuesday.
Among those heavily damaged were the airport’s fire station, terminal building whose roof was blown away, CAAP staff house and three guard posts.
CAAP said partly damaged are Flight Services Station Tower, Air Navigation Service Powerhouse, weather instruments, signages and perimeter fence.
Area Manager Danilo Abareta said power and communication lines are down in the area of Catarman while other airports under Area Center VIII comprising Daniel Z. Romualdez Airport in Tacloban, Ormoc, Calbayog, Catbalogan, Catarman, Borongan, Biliran, Guian and Hilangos and Maasin, Leyte sustained only minor damage.
Catarman Airport, which serves the general area of Catarman, located in the province of Northern Samar, is under the supervision of the CAAP.
The CAAP also said Area Center V airports such as Legazpi, Naga, Masbate, Virac, Sorsogon, Bulan and Daet airport in Camarines Norte sustained only minor structural damage.
PCSO ready to help
The Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) also on Tuesday placed its Visayas and Southern Tagalog and Bicol regional offices on alert.
According to PCSO vice chairman and general manager Jose Ferdinand Rojas 2nd, the PCSO is ready to extend any assistance to those affected by Nona.
“The PCSO branch offices in the Visayas and Southern Tagalog and Bicol Region have been placed on alert and are ready to extend any needed assistance,” Rojas said.
IZA GABRIELLE IGLESIAS, RITCHIE A. HORARIO, BENJIE L. VERGARA, JOEL M. SY EGCO, PNA AND AFP