By Chito Chavez
Scattered to widespread rains will continue over Eastern Visayas and Caraga region and is expected to prevail over Bicol Region and the rest of the Visayas within 24 hours as tropical storm “Urduja” remains almost stationary on its track.
The Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said residents of these areas must undertake appropriate measures against floods and landslides.
In a 2 p.m. weather update, PAGASA said Urduja is already 230 kilometers east of Borongan City, Eastern Samar and is currently moving northwest at just 5 kilometers per hour.
Urduja, which packs maximum winds of 75 kph and gustiness of up to 90 kph, may make landfall in the Eastern Samar-Northern Samar area today.
With the prevailing weather condition, signal No. 2 is now hoisted over Eastern Samar, Northern Samar, Samar, and Biliran while signal No. 2 is up over Catanduanes, Camarines Sur, Albay, Sorsogon, Masbate including Burias and Ticao Islands, Romblon, Leyte, Southern Leyte, Northern Cebu, Capiz, Aklan, Northern Iloilo, and Dinagat Islands.
PAGASA warned that sea travel remains risky over the eastern seaboards of Bicol Region and theVisayas due to the approaching tropical storm.
It also warned of storm surge of up to 14 meters at the coastal areas of provinces under storm signal No. 2.
Due to the storm, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said a total of 9,028 passengers were stranded in Bicol, the National Capital Region (NCR), Western and Eastern Visayas.
The NDRRMC said that the operations of 859 vessels, 30 rolling cargoes, and 20 motor bancas were stopped due to bad weather.
It added that classes in eight provinces, four cities, and 17 municipalites in Regions V and VIII were suspended due to heavy rains.
Reports also stated that three houses were damaged in Barangay San Nicolas, Naujan, Oriental Mindoro due to river bank erosion caused by strong water current.
A landslide incident also occurred on Congressman Mate Avenue, Mt. Slide, Tacloban City.
In Sorsogon, the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO) of Sorsogon said at least eight families or 45 individuals from the coastal portion of Barangay Dancalan, Bulusan town, have been evacuated.
Ariel Doctama, PDRRMO public information officer, said these individuals were evacuated due to the threat of storm surge.
Doctama said they are targeting for evacuation at least 1,000 individuals from each of the seven municipalities located at the eastern seaboard of the province.
“The target is at least 1,000 individuals per municipality from towns of Sta. Magdalena, Bulusan, Prieto Diaz, Gubat, Barcelona, Matnog, including Bacon District in Sorsogon City. Ito yung mga lugar sa eastern part na nakaharap sa Pacific Ocean na may malaking threat ng storm surge,” he said.
At least 500 individuals were scheduled to be evacuated from various villages of Mt. Bulusan, which has been acting up lately.
Flights, sea operations cancelled
In Surigao City, Surigao-Cebu-Surigao, Manila-Siargao-Manila, and Cebu-Siargao-Cebu flights were cancelled while vessels plying the Surigao-Southern Leyte, Surigao-Cebu and SurigaoDinagat, Siargao routes were also halted due to strong winds and strong waves brought about by Urduja.
Classes in primary and high school level in both government and private sectors were suspended as alert level No. 2 was hoisted in the city.
Mayor Ernesto T. Matugas ordered social workers and personnel of the city social welfare office to closely coordinate with the port authority for possible assistance to the 232 stranded Meanwhile, all field engineers, crew and personnel of the task force of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) are already mobilized in an effort to immediately address any damage brought by Urduja.
“NGCP has mobilized its line crews and is currently conducting ground patrols to inspect and assess the impact of the tropical storm to its operations and facilities,” said NGCP Corporate Communication Officer (CCO) Glory Rebleza in a statement.
“Power system operator and transmission service provider NGCP has implemented the necessary preparations and precautions to minimize the impact of Urduja on transmission operations and facilities,” the NGCP-CCO said, in the same statement.
Engr. Sergio Dagooc, general manager of Dinagat Island Electric Cooperative and Siargao Island Electric Cooperative, also mobilized its task force on Thursday to take necessary and immediate responseto any damage or power problem.
In the nearby province of Misamis Oriental, close to 1,000 individuals fled their homes due Urduja.
The Misamis Oriental PDRRMC there said five houses were reported damaged and three partially damaged in Balingasag and Lagonglong towns. These houses were built along the riverbanks and were washed away by the rampaging floodwaters, it said.
The PDRRMC said more than 200 families from Lagonglong and close to 20 families from Balingasag have already evacuated.
Classes in both public and private schools are already suspended in the two municipalities since Thursday due to heavy downpour. (With reports from Francis T. Wakefield, Niño N. Luces, and Mike U. Crismundo)