Signal No. 3 up over Isabela, Aurora
Around 24,000 coastal residents were being evacuated as a precaution from approaching tropical storm Chedeng on Saturday, officials said, even as experts downgraded the threat from what was at one point a super typhoon.
Isabela and Aurora provinces were placed under Storm Signal No. 3 as tropical storm Chedeng (international name: Maysak) continued moving over the Philippine Sea Saturday afternoon, the state weather bureau PAGASA said.
In anticipation of Chedeng’s effects upon landfall in the northeast coast of Luzon, government officials earlier on Saturday said some 24,000 people, particularly in Quezon province, were being evacuated.
“We plan to move people out of coastal villages,” Nigel Lontoc, a senior civil defense official for the region, said.
In a news briefing, weather forecaster Jun Galang said they expect the storm to make landfall Sunday morning.
He said Chedeng remains on track to make landfall over the Isabela-Aurora area. PAGASA’s 5 p.m. advisory showed Chedeng may make landfall over Southern Isabela Sunday morning.
Remaining under Storm Signal No. 2 are: southern Cagayan, Kalinga, Mt. Province, Ifugao, Benguet, Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino, and Catanduanes.
Signal no. 1 remained up in the rest of Cagayan including Babuyan Island, Apayao, Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Abra, La Union, Pangasinan, Nueva Ecija, Tarlac, Pampanga, Bulacan, Rizal, Quezon, Camarines Norte and Camarines Sur.
Chedeng which days earlier hit several small islands in the Pacific Ocean, has weakened into a 115-kilometer per hour (kph) storm, state weather forecaster Jun Galang told Agence France Presse.
It was also possible the storm would further weaken to between 65-85 kilometres an hour by the time it is projected to hit the northeast coast of Luzon on Sunday morning, he added.
“At those lower intensities, we can eliminate the threat posed by storm surges,” he said, referring to giant tsunami-like waves that had prompted local officials to evacuate coastal villages in the area.
Such waves caused many of the fatalities when Super Typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) struck the country in November 2013, leaving more than 7,350 dead or missing.
Despite its reduced strength, Galang said Chedeng was still forecast to bring “moderate to occasionally intense” rain across a 400-kilometer front on Luzon’s mountainous northern section overnight Saturday.
Even light or moderate rain, if sustained for several hours, can bring floods and landslides in a locality, he noted.
The areas potentially affected have a combined population of about five million people, Social Welfare Undersecretary Vilma Cabrera told a news conference in Manila on Saturday.
About 20 typhoons and storms hit the Philippines each year, many of them deadly, but such weather disturbances are rare in April, the height of the tropical Asian nation’s dry season.
Chedeng is forecast to strike at the tail-end of a long Easter holiday that saw millions of people flock to the beaches to escape the heat.
Cabrera said about 10,000 tourists were warned Friday to stay away from the beaches of Aurora province northeast of Manila.
Galang said the eye of the storm was tracked 365 kilometers southeast of Aurora’s coast at 3 p.m. Saturday.
It was expected to hit land there between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. on Sunday, he added.
“We plan to move people out of coastal villages,” Nigel Lontoc, a senior civil defence official for the region, told AFP earlier.
In all, some 24,000 people from the coastal province of Aurora, where the storm is projected to make landfall Sunday, would be evacuated, he said.
“We have asked the tourists (in Aurora) to stay in their hotels and avoid the water,” he added.
Retired army general Jovie Narcise, who is visiting the Aurora town of Dingalan, said the skies began to darken there in the afternoon as big waves pounded the shore.
Small outrigger fishing boats had been pulled up and stored about 30 meters away from the water to keep them from being swept out to sea, he said.
“There are lots of tourists arriving in the area but they are going to resorts situated on higher ground,” Narcise told AFP.
Maysak last week ravaged the Federated States of Micronesia, leaving at least five dead, thousands homeless and crops destroyed.
Interior Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas 2nd on Saturday urged mayors of towns and cities threatened by Chedeng to execute preemptive evacuation plans to ensure the safety of local and foreign tourists, as well as people living in hazard-prone areas.
“We are calling on all mayors to be on alert as we do not want any casualties once the storm strikes,” Roxas, who is also Vice Chairman for Preparedness of the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC), said.
The NDRRMC had already placed 15 areas under “red alert” status which calls for preemptive evacuation. These are Abra, Apayao, Aurora, Benguet, Cagayan, Ifugao, Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Isabela, Kalinga, La Union, Mountain Province, Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino, and Catanduanes.
Five provinces were placed under “orange alert” status which calls for preparation for preemptive evacuation, namely Nueva Ecija, Pangasinan, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, and Quezon. Placed under “yellow alert status” which calls for readiness are the provinces of Bulacan, Masbate, Pampanga, Tarlac and Zambales.
As early as Monday the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) has alerted local officials in 24 provinces in Regions 1, 2, 3, 4A and 5 of the potential adverse impact of the storm.
By Friday, the DILG had started sending advisories calling on local officials to execute preemptive evacuation plans. Around 20 LGUs in 5 provinces have began to implement preemptive evacuation plans upon the DILG alert.
The DILG continues to monitor preparedness of 33 cities and 495 municipalities as the storm enters the Philippine territory.
Based on its preparedness monitoring activities, the DILG noted that most, if not all of the provinces placed under “red alert” had already completed Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) preparations such as executing preemptive and forced evacuation plans, organized administrative and logistical support teams, and conducted a check of inventory of relief goods and supplies.
Some LGUs placed under “orange alert” and “yellow alert” statuses, meanwhile have deployed their search, rescue and retrieval (SRR), security, medical and clearing operation teams.
Roxas said that Chedeng might still induce heavy rains that could trigger flash floods and landslides. The country’s weather bureau had also warned against possible storm surge that may affect coastal towns of Camarines Norte and Quezon along the stretch of Lamon Bay.
“Let’s ensure the safety of our people. If needed, I encourage the mayors to seriously consider undertaking force evacuation for the safety of our constituents and visitors” Roxas said.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) meanwhile said that they are closely-working with the Department of Health (DOH) in ensuring that health assistance for the would-be affected victims of storm Chedeng is underway.
According to DSWD Undersecretary Vilma Cabrera, the DOH has pre-positioned more than P33 million worth of medicines and medical supplies and water filters.
“A total of P33.1 Million was prepositioned by the DOH,” said Cabrera in a press briefing of NDRRMC on Saturday.
Cabrera said that regional offices of the DOH and hospitals were alerted to respond to any eventualities and ensure that enough medicines, as well as supplies and equipments needed were in place in responding to emergency situation.
Part of the preparation is ensuring that DOH hospitals will be ready to attend to the needs of the patients that may be brought for emergency and in the maintenance of good health of those that will be in the evacuation centers.
The DOH regional offices were likewise instructed to ensure provision of potable and safe water for drinking in the evacuation centers that will be opened so that water-borne diseases such as diarrhea can be prevented.
Because of the difficulty of boiling water in evacuation centers, it is recommended that a well-filtered water will be readily available and accessible by the evacuees.
DOH will also provide medicines for those that will possibly be inflicted with leptospirosis disease, cough, fever, diarrhea and other diseases.
DOH is also expected to provide tetanus shots for those that may be possibly injured or wounded if they accidentally stepped on or hit by pointed objects.
DOH teams will closely coordinate also with DSWD and other health workers in ensuring that women in the evacuation centers are engaging in breast-feeding, children are vaccinated and proper hygiene is given attention.
During disasters, the DOH discourages use of infant formula and instead promotes that breastfeeding is the best for babies and mothers too.
Tourists move out
Tourists in Baler, Aurora on Saturday morning moved out and returned to their respective places while outdoor activities along the beaches here were totally banned.
Gabriel Llave, chief of the Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (MDRRMO, ) said the move was in compliance with the advisory of the municipal government, declaring no outdoor activities zone along the beaches here.
Llave said the prohibited outdoor activities included swimming, surfing, diving and snorkeling, all types of water sports, boating and fishing, and picnics.
Likewise, he said the MDRRMO has declared pre-emptive evacuation to some to 4,373 households residing in high risk areas in various barangays in this town.
He said that pre-emptive evacuation was properly implemented.
“Tourists who will arrive today will not be accepted by the owners of hotels, resorts, inns and the like for the safety of the tourists and will be advised to return in their respective places,” Llave said.
He said that in case of refusal and even to some residents, force evacuation will be implemented.
To ensure zero tourists along beach, Llave said the personnel of Aurora Provincial and Public Safety of the Philippine National Police (PNP) were now guarding the resorts.
The police and the 56th infantry “Tatag” Battalion, Philippine Army have been on red alert and on standby and being readied for any instruction from the MDRRMO.
Llave also said that a pre-disaster risk assessment (PDRA) had been conducted and alerted all barangays to make the necessary actions.
He said that the PDRA was an innovation wherein disaster risks that might confront an area or community were analyzed based on actual demography and current scientific data gathered regarding a weather disturbance such as tropical storm Chedeng.
AFP and PNA