All key government agencies went on red alert as Typhoon Ruby (international codename: Hagupit) entered the country’s area of responsibility early Thursday morning.
Ruby has strengthened as it bore down on Eastern Visayas with 195-kilometer-per-hour winds and 230-kph gusts, weathermen reported. It is expected to come ashore on Saturday afternoon north of Guiuan, Eastern Samar.
Preparations for the typhoon went into high gear, and the red alert means that all concerned personnel are on standby.
The alert covers the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, Philippine National Police (PNP), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), all NDRRMC and civil defense regional and municipal offices, disaster management units and all local government units in Eastern Visayas and in 44 provinces.
Alexander Pama, the NDRRMC executive director and Office of Civil Defense (OCD) chairperson, also on Thursday said all Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Councils (RDRRMCs) in the areas in the storm’s path were under strict orders to take precautionary measures.
Local disaster units were also directed to begin preemptive evacuation in areas prone to flooding and landslides.
Pama said Ruby was still too far to affect any part of the country, but Storm Signal No.1 has already been raised in nine provinces so as to alert residents.
The typhoon, which has a radius of 700 km., is forecast to bring rainfall of from 7.5mm to 20mm per hour (heavy to intense).
Under Signal No.1 are Northern Samar, Eastern Samar, Samar, Biliran, Leyte and Southern Leyte in the Visayas; and Surigao del Norte, including Siargao Island, Surigao del Sur and Dinagat in Mindanao.
Also on Thursday, Science Secretary Mario Montejo called on the public to keep monitoring developments on Ruby through the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) and Project NOAH, saying the information the two agencies are providing are now the most reliable.
Montejo cited the typhoon having come nearer Pagasa’s sensors and observatory equipment.
Dr. Flaviana Hilario, Pagasa deputy administrator explained, “It is important to note that once a storm or typhoon enters the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR), the information of Pagasa becomes more reliable than those provided by its foreign counterparts because it is able to acquire more observational data from different field stations in the country.”
“As we had predicted, the typhoon further intensified as it approached the landmass at a slower pace. This means, we have to prepare as we are faced with a typhoon that brings destructive winds and heavy to intense rains within the typhoon’s 300-kilometer radius of uncertainty,” Montejo said.
Project NOAH has come up with a storm surge simulation model indicating which areas in Samar and Leyte are likely to be flooded.
The model, presented by NOAH Executive Director Mahar Lagmay, initially covers the provinces of Samar and Leyte.
Lagmay said the model may change from time to time, depending on forecast behavior of the typhoon.
“We will be updating the height of the surges every six hours, and we will put it on Project NOAH website because this is only as good as the typhoon forecast. This includes the maps of the storm surge inundation,” he added.
As of 10 p.m. Wednesday, the storm surge simulation model covers 21 municipalities in Samar, Leyte and Cebu. The scenario reflected a three- to four-meter high storm surge.
Lagmay said based on Pagasa’s 10 a.m. forecast track, concentration of the storm surge may be in Northern Leyte, Samar, Basey town (Samar) and Tacloban City (Leyte).
During Yolanda, the storm surge in the area went as high as five to six meters.
Project NOAH has devoted a special webpage http://blog.noah.dost.gov.ph/typhoon-ruby-hagupit/ for updates on Typhoon Ruby.
If Ruby continued on its projected track, an estimated 4.5 million people may be affected, including those still recovering from Typhoon Yolanda, which devastated a large part of Central Philippines in November 2013.
Speaking from Tacloban, Oxfam’s Country Director Justin Morgan, said: “A year on from Typhoon Haiyan [Yolanda], people are exerting more effort to prepare and are much more aware of which locations are safe, and appreciate more the importance of following evacuation orders. The danger is, however, that not all evacuation centers in Haiyan-affected areas have been fully repaired and many continue to live in unsafe shelters as recovery efforts continue. Oxfam has emergency assistance positioned and staff in country who are ready to support an emergency response if needed.”