‘Helen’ hits land, whips northern Luzon; 6 deadBy DJ Yap
Inquirer Northern Luzon
Tropical Storm “Helen” crossed Isabela province at dawn on Wednesday, dumping heavy rains and whipping strong winds that toppled trees, especially in the coastal villages facing the Pacific Ocean. At least six fatalities were reported.
The winds were strongest in Palanan town at 1 a.m. when Helen moved toward northern Cagayan. By midmorning, however, only intermittent rains were experienced in most parts of the province.
Although the storm was expected to be out of the country by noon Thursday, it would enhance the southwest monsoon, or “habagat,” which has been dumping rains over Metro Manila and the rest of Luzon’s western section, according to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa).
At 10 a.m. Wednesday, Helen (international name: Kai Tak) was tracked at 40 kilometers south-southeast of Aparri, Cagayan, moving west-northwest at 13 km per hour.
Pagasa forecaster Chris Perez said it was packing peak winds of 75 kph near the center and gustiness of up to 90 kph, slightly weaker than when it was still over water.
At least six flights to Cagayan and Isabela were canceled at Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila.
Storm Signal No. 2, indicating winds of 61-100 kph, was hoisted over Cagayan, including the Calayan and Babuyan island groups, Isabela and northern Aurora, Quirino, Nueva Vizcaya, Benguet, Ifugao, Mt. Province, Ilocos Sur, Apayao, Kalinga, Ilocos Norte, Abra and Batanes provinces.
Signal No. 1, indicating winds of 30 to 60 kph, was raised over the provinces of Nueva Ecija, Pangasinan, Tarlac, La Union and the rest of Aurora.
In Baguio City, two small-scale miners, Jonaphe Pandosen and Ekmer Domines, were buried by a landslide that struck their camp in Mt. Emerald, Barangay (village) Kias, at 9 a.m. Wednesday.
Their companion, Marcos Baniguen, 62, was rescued and taken to Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center.
Domines, 42, was dug out alive at 11:30 a.m. but died on the way to the hospital. The body of Pandosen, 50, was recovered at 12:45 p.m.
In Ilocos Norte, a year-old baby drowned in floodwaters near her family’s house in Barangay San Pedro in Paoay town Wednesday.
Princess Lyka Jamon might have been left unattended while her mother was cooking in the kitchen, said Gloria Bagasol, a midwife at the municipal rural health unit. She said floodwaters from nearby farmlands overflowed and swamped the family’s house.
The Office of Civil Defense (OCD) in Ilocos recorded at least two other drowning victims on August 13. They were Armando Valdez Barbon, 37, who had an epileptic attack and drowned in a flooded rice field in Basista, Pangasinan, and Andrew Mariano Batara, 37, who was swept away by strong river current in Dingras, Ilocos Norte.
In Conner, Apayao, Fernando Dingayan, 49, died on Tuesday night after he was hit by a tree branch as he and six other people were pitching a tent in Sitio Alawing in Barangtay Talifuco, the OCD said.
Isabela Governor Faustino Dy III said storm-related damage in the province was minimal. He said the rains would help farmers in the province.
Magat Dam in Ramon town stopped releasing water Wednesday morning after its water level was recorded at 189.68 meters above sea level, below its 193 masl spilling level, said Saturnino Tenedor, dam instrumentation section chief.
Liquor ban violators
At least 28 people were arrested for violating the liquor ban imposed by the provincial government while the storm raged, said Senior Superintendent Franklin Mabanag, Isabela police director.
In Cagayan, classes in all levels were suspended on Wednesday. The scheduled activities for Tuguegarao City’s Pavvurulun Festival were reset.
Strong rains swelled the waterways under Tawi Bridge in Peñablanca town and Simpatuyo Bridge in Sta. Teresita town.
In Ilocos Norte, heavy rains since Tuesday night caused up to knee-deep floodwaters in seven villages in Paoay, a catch basin of floodwaters coming from neighboring Batac City. Under water were Barangays San Juan, Salbang, Poblacion, Nalasin, San Agustin, Sta. Rita and Paratong, said Alwin Bartolome, a staff member at the mayor’s office.
In Sarrat town, an undetermined number of families in Sitio Parang moved to higher grounds after floodwaters started submerging their houses, according to a report from the Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.
In La Union, heavy rains flooded several sections of the national highway in the towns of Bauang, Bacnotan, San Juan, Luna and Naguilian and in the capital San Fernando City. By afternoon, however, most of these roads were passable as the floodwaters subsided.
A landslide blocked a section of the national highway in Barangay Wenceslao in Caba town, but Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) personnel started clearing the debris, according to reports from the OCD in Ilocos.
In Pangasinan, high tide and overnight rains submerged by up to 3 feet at least 17 villages, including major streets, in Dagupan City, creating monstrous traffic jams during the early morning rush.
Ronald de Guzman of the City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said the flooding was worsened by the swollen Pantal-Sinocalan River, a major river system that traverses Dagupan and empties into the Lingayen Gulf, when its water level reached 7.74 meters or 1.24 meters above its critical level.
Governor Amado Espino Jr. ordered relief operations for flood victims in the towns of Calasiao, Lingayen, Bugallon and Sta. Barbara and Alaminos City, where flooding still persists.
Floodwaters at the City Camp Lagoon in Baguio rose to 4 meters, said Ireneo Gallato, head of the city’s engineering district, but unusually strong rains kept the flood steady for four to six hours, which prevented it from subsiding.
City Camp is the lowest section of the city and run-off water flows there. The water is discharged through a tunnel which the DPWH is improving, Gallato said.
OCD reports said 105 families from City Camp were evacuated to nearby schools.
All roads in the Cordillera were passable, except for the Baguio-Bua-Itogon Road and the Kabayan-Buguias-Abatan Road in Benguet due to landslides. Kennon Road was open to light vehicles on Wednesday despite minor rock slides along the route.
In Pampanga, Governor Lilia Pineda ordered a preemptive evacuation in villages along the Porac-Gumain River to get residents out of harm’s way as rain water dammed by landslides in the upland villages threatened to roll down and trigger lahar flows.
“I don’t want to sow panic but people need to be alert and safe from possible lahar flows because of the damming of water in that part of the uplands of Porac,” Pineda told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
As of Wednesday, the number of flooded areas in Central Luzon decreased to 272, the Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council reported. Of these, 68 are in Bulacan, 193 in Pampanga and 11 in Tarlac.
Better weather on Friday
At 11:10 a.m. Wednesday, Pagasa issued a new yellow warning over Metro Manila indicating light to moderate rainfall over a three-hour period. Last week, torrential rains submerged 80 percent of the capital, causing widespread destruction of property and killing several people.
Cloudy to rainy weather was expected until Friday in Metro Manila, Central and Southern Luzon. “There will be gradual improvement of weather by Friday,” Perez said. With reports from Villamor Visaya Jr., Cristina Arzadon, Yolanda Sotelo, Gabriel Cardinoza and Vincent Cabreza, Inquirer Northern Luzon; Tonette Orejas, Inquirer Central Luzon, and Jerry Esplanada, Philip C. Tubeza and Jerome Aning in Manila