Central, Northern Luzon brace ahead of new storm
PAMPANGA–Gov. Lilia Pineda on Monday asked residents in flooded villages along the banks of the Pampanga River to leave and transfer either to evacuation centers or to the houses of their relatives.
Pineda, speaking through radio station dwRW, aired the appeal as Tropical Storm “Helen” is expected to trigger rains over the Sierra Madre mountains and after portions of the Arnedo Dike were breached.
She said floodwaters from those areas, including Nueva Ecija and Tarlac, drain out to Pampanga River, threatening to worsen flooding in Apalit, San Luis, San Simon, Macabebe and Masantol towns.
“We are the catch basin of floods. We can’t rescue all of you so you better evacuate now while there is still time,” Pineda said.
She said the Pampanga government has opened evacuation centers in the Clark Freeport and public gymnasiums in Mabalacat City and Magalang and Porac towns.
Pineda said she realized it was not right to distribute food packs in severely flooded areas where residents refused to leave. “I have no option but provide food since they complain of hunger. On the other hand, it’s best for them to really leave,” she said.
She called for a meeting with mayors to assess the rate of evacuation in their towns.
City of San Fernando Mayor Oscar Rodriguez said the city government would resort to forced evacuation if residents in high-risk villages refused to seek safety in evacuation centers.
As of Monday, 22 of 35 villages in the Pampanga capital remained flooded. More than 4,200 people are still staying in school buildings that have been turned into evacuation centers.
The Pampanga River Basin Flood Forecasting and Warning Center said the maximum rainfall that fell over the Pampanga River Basin and Pasac-Guagua Basin was 127.33 millimeters, recorded from 8 a.m. of Aug. 7 to 8 a.m. of Aug. 8.
In Bulacan, provincial officials asked residents of Calumpit, Hagonoy and of low lying communities along the Angat River to be on alert for floods after Angat Dam increased the volume of water it is releasing at noon on Monday.
Rodolfo German, general manager of Angat River Hydroelectric Power Plant (Arhepp), said the dam started releasing water at a rate of 500 cubic meters per second (cms) after water elevation in the reservoir reached 215 masl on Sunday afternoon. The dam’s spilling level is 210 masl.
German said they could not delay the release of water and wait for the reservoir to reach its maximum capacity of 217 masl because they are anticipating heavy rains induced by the storm.
Felicisima Mungcal, head of the provincial disaster risk reduction and management council, assured that the amount of water released by Angat will not result in sudden and major flooding.
“We will be worried if the volume of water released from the dam goes beyond 500 cms. Gov. Wilhelmino Sy-Alvarado is in constant communication with dam officials, asking them to limit the amount of water release to 500 cms,” Mungcal said.
In Isabela, in anticipation of the rains that would be dumped by the storm, Magat Dam officials opened a gate, at a height of 2 meters, at 3 p.m. on Monday to release water.
Saturnino Tenedor, dam instrumentation section chief, said the dam’s water elevation reached 191.13 meters above sea level (masl) on Monday, still below its 193 masl spilling level.
Due to the water release from Magat, provincial officials issued a flood bulletin to local governments in 35 towns and Cauayan City to preempt any disaster, Gov. Faustino Dy III said.
“Our teams and equipment are intact. We are ready for any eventuality,” he said.
Dy said he ordered residents in the coastal towns of Divilacan, Maconacon, Dinapigue and Palanan to evacuate to higher grounds once the typhoon crosses the province and induce flooding and storm surges. These eastern Isabela towns face the Pacific Ocean.
Dy also imposed a liquor ban and asked residents, especially village officials, to stop engaging in drinking sessions during the typhoon. Isabela has been imposing a liquor ban during typhoons because several drowning victims in the past were found to be drunk.
In Nueva Ecija, officials of San Leonardo town readied at least eight boats to serve the flood-prone villages of Tabuating, Tagumpay, Magpapalayok, Adorable and San Anton as the storm approaches northern Luzon.
Jaen Mayor Santiago Austria said the town has at least 12 boats, including two recently acquired fiberglass motorboats, that can be used to evacuate residents in flooded villages.
San Leonardo and Jaen are among Nueva Ecija towns that experience flooding when rains persist in eastern Luzon. The others towns are Licab, Aliaga, Sto. Domingo, San Antonio and Cabiao.
In Aurora, Elson Egargue, chief of the provincial disaster risk reduction and management council, said government teams have been alerted even as the province experienced good weather conditions on Monday. Aurora was cloudy on Monday, Egargue said.
In the Cordillera, the Office of Civil Defense said Kalinga and Apayao, two of the provinces placed under public storm signal number 1, had cloudy skies on Monday.
Officials in those provinces, however, have activated their disaster risk reduction and management councils due to the storm, OCD Cordillera said.
The agency said it is monitoring the status of a tailings dam operated by gold and copper producer Philex Mining Corp., which accidentally leaked on Aug. 1, as well as a sinking area in the Benguet town of Bakun.
All roads in the Cordillera, including major routes to and from Baguio City, were open on Monday.(Reports from Tonette Orejas, Carmela Reyes-Estrope and Armand Galang, Inquirer Central Luzon, and Vincent Cabreza and Villamor Visaya Jr., Inquirer Northern Luzon)
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.