by Ellalyn De Vera and Elena L. Aben, and Argyll Cyrus B. Geducos
Family reunions and feasting on Christmas had to be cancelled for thousands of Filipinos who spent the holiday evacuating from their homes, waiting for hours at ports and terminals without a ride, or reinforcing their shelters for the powerful force of typhoon “Nina” (international name: Nock-ten), which barreled through the Bicol region last night.
After noon today, it is expected to be nearest – if not directly hit – Metro Manila if “Nina” does not change course, according to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) and the Joint Typhoon Warning Center.
Even before typhoon Nina was to make landfall in Catanduanes around 8 p.m. Sunday, provinces in the Bicol region had been placed under Signal No. 4, triggering forced evacuations in vulnerable areas.
On its way to slam into the eastern side of southern Luzon, officials struggled to divert people’s attention from family celebrations and travel. Governor Miguel Villafuerte of Camarines Sur, which is on the typhoon’s forecast path, offered lechon in evacuation centers to entice villagers to move to emergency shelters. His target was to evacuate about 50,000 residents in typhoon-vulnerable areas.
Albay province reported that 76,000 residents were forced to evacuate their homes overnight since Christmas eve.
In Catanduanes province, Vice Gov. Shirley Abundo said she has ordered a forced evacuation of villagers, saying some “are really hard-headed, they don’t want to leave their houses because it’s Christmas.”
“We need to do this by force, we need to evacuate them now,” she told ABS-CBN television.
ANATOMY OF THE STORM
Packing maximum sustained winds of 185 kph and gustiness of up to 255 kph, Nina was expected to cut across Albay, Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte, southern Quezon, Laguna, Batangas and Cavite en route to West Phililppine Sea today (December 26), while its outer circulation will also affect Metro Manila this morning, said PAGASA weather forecaster Benison Estareja.
At 5 p.m. yesterday, PAGASA located the eye of the typhoon at 250 kilometers (km) east of Virac, Catanduanes around 5 p.m. Sunday. It was forecast to move west at 15 kilometers per hour (kph) and make landfall over Catanduanes last night, said Estareja.
This has prompted the PAGASA to raise tropical cyclone warning Signal No. 4 over Catanduanes and Camarines Sur, and Signal No. 3 over Burias Islands, Albay, Camarines Norte, southern Quezon, Sorsogon and Marinduque.
Meanwhile, Signal No. 2 was hoisted over Metro Manila, Masbate including Ticao Island, Oriental Mindoro, Batangas, Laguna, rest of Quezon including Polillo Island, Occidental Mindoro including Lubang Island, Romblon, Cavite, Rizal, Bulacan, Bataan and Northern Samar.
PAGASA senior weather forecaster Jori Loiz said some areas under Signal Nos. 2, 3, and 4 started to experience stormy weather as early as Sunday morning, which may last until Monday.
Areas under Signal No. 1 are Pangasinan, Nueva Ecija, Aurora, Quirino, Nueva Vizcaya, Zambales, Pampanga, Tarlac, Calamian group of islands, Aklan, Capiz, Samar, Eastern Samar, Biliran, Leyte and Bantayan Island.
GOV’T ON ALERT
Malacañang has assured that government workers, particularly those involved in disaster relief operations, are working round-the-clock even on Christmas Day as typhoon Nina maintains its strength and continues to pose a serious threat to the Bicol region.
Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said 22 evacuation centers were opened to accommodate the affected residents in the Bicol region.
“Currently, DSWD Bicol has provided 732 family food packs, 2,549 ready to eat meals, 1,585 malong, 885 plastic mats, 885 mosquito net, 885 blankets and 585 dignity kits amounting to P1,798,174.30 to 27 local government units,” Andanar said.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) has been on “Red Alert” from the Blue Alert raised on Christmas Eve, said Mina Marasigan, NDRRMC spokeswoman.
“As of 12 noon Sunday, we are on Red Alert status,” Marasigan said.
She said all the RDRRMC’s of Region I, II, III, Calabarzon, MIMAROPA, V, VIII, CAR and NCR are also on red alert.
As this developed, the NDRRMC said that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Central Command, Southern Luzon Command (Solcom) and Joint Task Force-National Capital Region (JTF-NCR) have been tasked to coordinate with the Regional and Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Councils for the utilization and repositioning of AFP Disaster Response Units at disaster prone areas.
The NDRRMC said this will ensure the operational readiness including force protection of respective Disaster Response Units (DRUs) for effective response capabilities.
STRANDED AT THE PORTS
At least 11,522 passengers spent their Christmas at seaports nationwide despite the suspended trips due to the typhoon threat.
The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said 11,522 passengers, 1,078 rolling cargoes, 37 vessels and six motorbancas are stranded due to the rough seas caused by Nina as of 12 noon.
But despite this, PCG has monitored a total of 30,378 outbound passengers and 27,605 inbound passengers in various ports nationwide as of 12 p.m. yesterday.
PCG said 5,123 passengers, 549 rolling cargoes, 12 vessels, and three motorbancas were stranded in the ports in the Bicol Region where the typhoon is expected to make landfall
Aside from Bicol, PCG has also monitored a total of 2,548 passengers, 154 rolling cargoes, 18 vessels, and three motorbancas stranded in the ports of Southern Tagalog.
In Central Visayas, PCG has tallied a total of 1,914 passengers, 147 rolling cargoes, and six vessels stranded in different ports.
PCG said there are also 1,672 passengers stranded at the different ports of Eastern Visayas along with 228 rolling cargoes and a vessel.
The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) has ordered southbound buses to cancel their trips amid the inclement weather.
Many of the provincial bus companies have been fully-booked until December 30, placing the fate of travelers on hold since there are no other additional trips available.
Philippine Airlines (PAL) cancelled 14 domestic and international flights on Christmas Day and five flights today (Dec. 26).
The cancelled flights were: (Dec. 25) PR655: Riyadh-Manila; PR659: Jeddah-Dubai-Manila; PR2071: Manila-Calbayog; PR2072: Calbayog-Manila; PR2925: Manila-Legaspi; PR2926: Legaspi-Manila; PR2265: Manila-Naga; PR2266: Naga-Manila; PR2261: Manila-Naga; PR2262: Naga-Manila; PR2079: Manila-Catarman; PR2080: Catarman-Manila; PR469: Incheon-Manila; and PR733: Bangkok-Manila.
For today (Dec. 26), cancelled flights were PR510: Singapore-Manila; PR423: Haneda-Manila; PR383: Guangzhou-Manila; PR538: Denpasar-Manila; and PR536: Jakarta-Manila.
Eighteen flights of low-cost carrier Cebu Pacific Airline were canceled on Christmas Day “as everyone’s safety remains our utmost priority.”
The cancelled flights were: DG6163: Manila-Virac; DG6164: Virac- Manila; DG6165: Manila- Virac; DG6166: Virac-Manila; 5J325: Manila-Legazpi; 5J326: Legazpi- Manila; 5J327: Manila-Legazpi; 5J328: Legazpi- Manila; DG6193: Manila-Legazpi; DG6194: Legazpi- Manila; DG6195: Manila-Legazpi; DG6196: Legazpi- Manila; DG6204: Cebu-Legazpi; DG6205: Legazpi-Cebu; DG6113: Manila-Naga; DG6114: Naga- Manila; DG6117: Manila-Naga; and DG6118: Naga-Manila.
Also today (Dec. 26), Air Juan airlines cancelled eight domestic flights: Subic-Manila; Manila-Subic; Manila-Puerto Galera; Puerto Galera-Manila; Manila-Boracay; Boracay-Manila; Manila-Busuanga; and Busuanga-Manila. (With reports from Francis T. Wakefield, Martin A. Sadongdong, Vanne Elaine P. Terrazola, Jinky Tabor, and AP)