MANILA, Philippines—Tropical Storm “Auring” is now out of the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR) and all public storm signals have been lifted, according to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa), which located the storm some 460 kilometers southwest of Puerto Princesa City as of 5 p.m. on Friday.
Auring intensified further as it was leaving PAR, reaching peak winds of 65 kilometers per hour (kph) and gusts of 80 kph midday Friday, Pagasa said.
The storm left two persons dead in southern Palawan, and affected 14 villages around Lake Buhi in Buhi town, Camarines Sur. The villages were placed under a state of calamity on Thursday after continuous rains caused the lake to overflow and submerge some 1,500 hectares of agricultural lands, destroying at least P10 million worth of crops, mainly corn and palay.
Provincial disaster officials in Palawan identified the fatalities as farmers Pedro Francisco, 33, from Barangay Iraan, Rizal town, who was felled by a coconut tree, and Nicanor Suprecencia of Barangay Culandanum, Bataraza, who drowned while trying to recover his farm animals from the floodwaters.
Buhi Vice Mayor Omar Mercurio identified the 14 affected barangays as Iraya, Sagrada, Tambo, San Pedro, Sta. Elena, Sta. Clara, San Buena, San Pascual, Sta. Cruz, San Jose Baybayon, Sta. Justina, Igbac, Ipil and Lourdes.
Gov. Luis Raymund Villafuerte said the towns of Nabua and Libmanan were also affected by “floodwaters from Albay (that flowed) towards Camarines Sur.”
A passenger vessel, MB Overcomer, with 56 persons on board were rescued by the Coast Guard after they were stranded by heavy rains caused by Auring.
In Barangay Iraan, also in Rizal, some 30 families were evacuated.
The municipal government has released P1.6 million in calamity fund for the 3,191 families affected, while some P2 million worth of relief goods and medical teams were sent to the affected villages to preempt the possible outbreak of water-borne diseases such as cholera.
Cluster of clouds
Although Auring has left PAR, the weather bureau is monitoring another cluster of clouds forming east of Mindanao that could turn into another low pressure area (LPA).
Pagasa forecaster Jori Loiz said the weather bureau assesses such possibility every day, although there was minimal chance for the cloud formation to turn into a storm.
Most parts of the country will see improving weather over the weekend, although there may be light rains, he said.
“In Metro Manila, there will be fair weather and no strong rains unless the northeast monsoon strengthens, in which case there will only be light rains. The effect of the cloud cluster will be felt maybe next week,” Loiz said.
Storms in January are not that rare, the Pagasa forecaster said. “We’ve had two storms in January before.” he added.
But in February, Loriz said, the Philippines experiences “almost zero storms.”
Safety certificate suspended
In Cebu City, the Maritime Industry Authority in Central Visayas (Marina-7) has suspended the safety certificate of the MV Zamboanga Ferry that ran aground on Thursday morning at the port of Dumaguete
City, Negros Oriental, after being battered by strong waves and winds.
Marina-7 spokesperson Jose Cabatingan said the suspension would only be lifted after the vessel passed the reinspection to be conducted by the Marina safety inspection team.
An official of Cebu-based George and Peter Lines, which owns the MV Zamboanga Ferry, described the suspension of the safety certificate as standard operating procedure in the industry in cases that involved maritime incidents.
“Even without the Marina order, it is George and Peter Lines’ duty to the public to properly inspect the vessel and ensure its seaworthiness before resuming (its) trips and taking on passengers,” said Georgia Felice Chiongbian-Rama, George and Peter Lines vice president.
But she stressed that only the safety certificate of MV Zamboanga Ferry was suspended, and not that of the company’s two other vessels, the MV GP Ferry and MV Georich, that ply the Cebu, Dumaguete, Dapitan and Zamboanga routes.
Strong waves and winds
The MV Zamboanga Ferry, a roll-on roll-off vessel, was about to dock at the Dumaguete port on Thursday morning when it was hammered by strong waves and winds spawned by an LPA that later developed into a tropical storm.
The vessel, which carried 228 passengers and 14 crew members, eventually ran aground about 50 meters from Rizal Boulevard.
Because of strong waves, it took seven hours before all passengers were brought to dry land on board several life rafts.
Meanwhile, Michael Mate, executive assistant of the Philippine Port Authority-Port Management Office (PPA-PMO) in Dumaguete, said the suggestion to close down the port in Dumaguete City was out of the question.
Some people have noted that being located in an open sea, the port would be dangerous to sea vessels especially during bad weather.
Mate said that the port in Dumaguete would be retained but that an alternative port could be opened and used during rough seas.
The PPA-PMO was eyeing areas in the southern part of Negros Oriental as a possible site for an alternative port, he added. With a report from Carinne Asutilla, Inquirer Visayas