‘Butchoy’ now typhoon; 40 missingBy Aquiles Z. Zonio, Joey A. Gabieta
Inquirer Mindanao, Inquirer Visayas
At least 40 fishermen are still missing, but hundreds of others miraculously survived to tell the story of their worst nightmare at sea as “Butchoy,” now officially a typhoon, continues to skim the country’s eastern coast.
Coast Guard teams are still scouring Sarangani Bay in search of at least 37 fishermen still unaccounted for after an unusual storm surge sent fishing boats smashing into rocks and coves. Authorities are also searching for three fishermen, whose boat capsized off Surigao City on Tuesday.
In Pangasinan, ANC News reported 12 fishermen missing but this could not be confirmed by the Inquirer.
The Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) said Butchoy intensified into a typhoon on Saturday but was still not expected to make landfall.
As of 4 p.m., Butchoy was 490 kilometers east northeast of Virac, Catanduanes. It was moving north northwest at 20 kilometers per hour with maximum sustained winds of 160 kph near the center and gustiness of up to 195 kph.
Samar teachers survive
In Samar, eight teachers were rescued by the Coast Guard on Friday night after the boat they were on developed engine trouble and was tossed around for almost seven hours in the stormy sea.
The teachers from Birawam National High School in Daram town had boarded the pump boat home to Catbalogan City about 3 p.m. After frantic calls from relatives, the Coast Guard finally located the boat at 8 p.m. They made it ashore at 10 p.m., according to a Philippine Coast Guard statement.
Joel Baring of the Coast Guard station based in Catbalogan City told the Inquirer in a phone interview on Saturday the teachers “were all crying for fear that the banca would capsize.”
He identified them as Maria Rica Baldoza, 25; Maria Luz Codilla, 33; Analiza Lapong, 25; Eva Plaba,30; Grace Braga, 41; Evenilyn Ocinar, 27; Melissa Cabicayayan, 30, and Irenea Castillar, 30, who was said to be pregnant. Also rescued were the two boatmen, Christopher Gadin, 25, and Nilo Canete, 40.
3 in Surigao missing
In the meantime, about 60 passengers bound for Luzon were stranded at the port in Allen, Northern Samar, since Friday afternoon after vessels were barred from sailing because of Typhoon Butchoy.
Three fishermen caught in the sea between Basol Island and Surigao City were not as lucky.
The PCG said the three were last seen clinging to their pump boat which had capsized.
Failed rescue attempt
Another fisherman, a certain Gonzales, saw them and tried to approach their boat. “However, (his) motor boat’s rudder broke and he was not able to steer it toward the capsized banca,” the PCG said. A passing motor vessel rescued Gonzales and they reported the incident to the Coast Guard in Surigao,” the PCG added.
The Coast Guard immediately conducted search and rescue operations but “with negative results.” The search was temporarily suspended due to poor visibility.
The PCG said it “intends to resume surface search if weather permits.”
Stunned in Sarangani
In Sarangani, rescue workers have accounted for over 300 fishermen so far, but continue to search for 37 who had reportedly set out to sea.
Fifty-year-old Roberto Diaz said he has been fishing for 30 years but “this is the first time that I saw 30-foot waves in Sarangani Bay.”
“I thought I would die,” added Diaz, a resident of Kamanga village. He said he lost his catch and his boat when the waves came smashing down. “I was not able to save anything except my underwear. I was almost naked when I was washed ashore in Batulaki village in Glan town, said Diaz, who recalls clinging to what was left of his boat for more than five hours.
Aldy Plenos, 22, told how he tried to save an unidentified fisherman whose outrigger was overturned by raging waves.
“He grabbed the rope (that I threw at him), but strong waves pulled him away … The rope slipped from his hands,” he said. Plenos’ own boat capsized and he clung to it for almost seven hours until he was washed ashore somewhere in Kamawal.
“I didn’t expect to survive.I was worried that waves would pummel me against the rocks. Luckily I landed on a sandy portion,” continued Plenos. There he met several other surviving fishermen, including the one he tried to save.
Plenos said his wife and two-year-old daughter served as his inspiration, and he admitted crying while on his way home.
“The memory of my wife and baby kept flashing in my mind. I really thank God for giving me a second life,” he said.
No storm signals
His neighbor, Agripino Rosales Jr., 37, was lucky his outrigger sustained only minor damage. “This was the fourth time I survived a sea tragedy. But this was the worst so far,” Rosales said.
Despite Typhoon Butchoy’s increased strength, no public storm warning signals were raised on Saturday, although Pagasa warned of flash floods, landslides and rough seas as well as more rains.
Fernando Cada said no storm warning signals were raised because of the typhoon’s distance from any land mass in the country.
“Even though its diameter is 500 kilometers, it would not reach any land mass,” Cada said.
Over the sea
Cada said the winds and rains would be over the sea, which was why the waves were expected to be big.
By Sunday morning, Butchoy is expected to be 590 km southeast of Casiguran, Aurora, and 500 km east southeast of Basco, Batanes, by Monday morning. By Tuesday, it would be 600 km northeast of Basco.
In Bicol, disaster management authorities went on alert on Saturday for possible flooding and landslides as Butchoy continued northward. A strict “no sailing and fishing” policy was imposed.
Butchoy is the second cyclone to enter the Philippines this year. About 20 cyclones enter the country each year. With reports from Leila B. Salaverria and Philip C. Tubeza in Manila; Mar S. Arguelles, Inquirer Southern Luzon