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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Storm signals up in 6 areas of Luzon, Visayas


MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) raised yesterday storm warning signals in at least six areas in Luzon and the Visayas as tropical storm “Chedeng” continued to move closer to the country.

Storm warning signal no. 1 was hoisted over Catanduanes, Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte, Albay, Sorsogon and Samar provinces as of 5 p.m. yesterday.

The eye of the storm was spotted at 450 kilometers east-northeast of Borongan, Eastern Samar with maximum sustained winds of 115 kilometers per hour (kph) near the center and gustiness of up to 145 kph. It was forecast to move west-northwest at 13 kph as of 4 p.m. yesterday.

PAGASA weather branch chief Robert Sawi said Chedeng slightly intensified yesterday afternoon from 105 kph maximum sustained winds to 115 kph.

Sawi said Chedeng is expected to intensify into a typhoon in the next 24 hours even as he raised the possibility that Chedeng could become a super typhoon as it gathers strength over the Pacific Ocean.

He said the southwest monsoon – which is being enhanced by Chedeng – was expected to bring heavy rains over the western section of Visayas and Mindanao.

Sawi said the concentration of rains will be in the provinces of Isabela, Quezon and Aurora by Thursday, while Central and Northern Luzon will experience stormy weather on Friday and Saturday.

“It is unsafe to travel by land, air or sea during these days,” Sawi said.

Flaviana Hilario, PAGASA acting deputy administrator for research and development, said Chedeng could bring over 400 millimeters (mm) of rainfall in 24 hours over Northern Luzon, which is close to the 455 mm rainfall brought by tropical storm “Ondoy” on Sept. 26, 2009.

Sawi said Metro Manila will not be directly hit by the storm but it would experience moderate to heavy rains beginning Friday until Saturday. He said the enhanced southwest monsoon is expected to dump 4.17 mm per hour of rainfall, which could cause severe flooding.

Chedeng is the third tropical cyclone and so far the strongest to enter the Philippine area of responsibility this year, according to Sawi.

Relief agencies on alert

As the country braces for Chedeng, President Aquino put state relief agencies on alert and warned those living near the coast to get ready to evacuate.

Aquino believes there is enough time to prevent casualties as the storm is not forecast to hit the northeastern part of Luzon until late Thursday, his spokesman Edwin Lacierda said in a statement.

“President Aquino is closely monitoring the preparations for the coming of (storm Chedeng) and has instructed concerned agencies to do all that is possible to minimize loss of life and damage to property,” Lacierda said.

“We appeal to those living in low-lying and landslide-prone areas to cooperate with local authorities if and when they are asked to evacuate,” he added.

The President also ordered concerned officials to enforce a military-style evacuation of people if needed to ensure zero casualty.

Science Undersecretary Graciano Yumul in a press briefing in Malacañang said people should heed warnings so as not to be caught unprepared, like what happened when typhoon Ondoy hit the country in 2009.

“(The President) wants one sign and that’s it, the people will go to the evacuation center. The marching order of the President is zero casualty. It is not only in Albay but actually in all parts of the Philippines. We have to emphasize that for the simple reason that every time we give warning it’s not really just about livelihood and properties but actual lives,” Yumul said.

Disaster preparedness in place

Navy chief Vice Adm. Alexander Pama said naval forces in Luzon, Visayas and Metro Manila are now preparing for possible relief efforts.

“We have alerted the troops in Southern Luzon, Northern Luzon and of course Metro Manila and even Central Philippines. Due to climate change, we cannot predict the path of the storm,” he said.

National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) executive director Benito Ramos said their local units are also preparing their respective contingency plans.

“We have directed regional disaster risk reduction and management councils concerned… to undertake precautionary measures in their area of responsibility,” he said.

Ramos said local disaster management officials are ready to conduct preemptive evacuation of families in low-lying and mountainous areas if necessary.

In Legazpi City, Gov. Joey Salceda issued Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council Advisory 3 for the Philippine Coast Guard to implement a no sailing to sea for small passenger sea craft and fishing boats. Crossing of all river channels, spillways and other waterways is also prohibited.

“Let us tirelessly and persistently work and aim for zero casualty,” Salceda said.

Salceda also told The STAR that some 174 barangay captains from Albay who are taking part in the Liga Congress in Baguio City have decided to come home so they can attend to the needs of their constituents.

The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) also dispatched Disaster Quick Response (DQR) teams to critical sections along the national roads of Western Visayas, Bicol region, Cagayan Valley and Northern Luzon which are expected to be affected by the storm.

Under Department Order No. 38, the DQR teams should submit situational reports every six hours during calamities to effect timely and expeditious response.

“PAGASA has already warned that there is a possibility that typhoon Chedeng may bring heavier rains compared to typhoon Milenyo, that’s why we must double our efforts to assure public safety and to assure immediate rescue and relief operation during calamity,” Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson said.

Civil Defense regional director Adriano Fuego said the local Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (DRRMC) in Western Mindanao had also been mobilized.

In Pampanga, Chief Superintendent Edgardo Ladao, Police Regional Office-3 (PRO3) director, said members of the Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (RDRRMC) would also be holding a conference to discuss its preparations for Chedeng.

LGUs warned

Senate committee on climate change chair Loren Legarda said the heads of local government units, particularly those projected to be hit by Chedeng, should be prepared for the possibility of it becoming a super typhoon.

“By now, LGUs and barangays should already be prepared for typhoon Chedeng. They should be ready to implement disaster management and early warning systems in their respective areas,” Legarda said.

She said that the LGUs should have no excuse for complacency because they have repeatedly been told to implement disaster risk reduction programs, including the identification of relocation areas for their residents.

Legarda also advised the LGUs to ready their warning systems, including simple devices such as bells, whistles and flags. – With Aurea Calica, Alexis Romero, Marvin Sy, Ric Sapnu, Celso Amo, Roel Pareño, Evelyn Macairan


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