Bicol braces for ‘Gorio’

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LEGAZPI CITY, Albay – Nearly 3,000 passengers were stranded in various ports in Bicol as public storm signal No. 2 went up in six provinces in the region and local officials and residents braced themselves for the passage of Tropical Storm Gorio, the Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said Saturday.

The Philippine Coast Guard suspended maritime operations at all Bicol ports due to stormy weather, stranding at least 2,949 passengers and 227 trucks, 66 buses, 80 cars, 28 roll-on-roll-off (RORO) ferries and 12 motorized bancas, said Bernardo Rafael Alejandro, Office of Civil Defense  regional director and chairperson pf the Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

In Albay, the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council ordered the preemptive evacuation of around 76,000 households in flood-prone places on Saturday afternoon after noting a cumulative rainfall of 97.8 millimeter in the five hours to 1 p.m.

Governor Joey Salceda, PDRRMC head, said households should be evacuated early as it would be difficult and risky to do so at night, since the eye of Gorio was expected to hit Albay by 10 p.m.

The PDRRMC earlier identified the areas in Albay most vulnerable to flooding as the towns of Libon, Polangui, Oas and Malinao while places most vulnerable to landslides were Manito, Tiwi, Malilipot and Sto. Domingo.

The Philippine Institute of Volconology and Siesmology warned that intense rain of 60-mm per hour could cause some 29 million cubic meters of old lahar deposits to cascade down the Masarawag slopes of Mt. Mayon in Guinobatan, Albay.

Ed Laguerta, Phivolcs resident volcanologist here, told members of the Albay PDRRMC that places under threat from lahar flow were the village of Maipon and its neighboring villages in Guinobatan.

The lahar deposits were old volcanic materials spewed by the volcano during its 2007 and 2009 eruptions, he said.

As of noon Saturday, however, the rainfall of 28.44mm/hr., while it could trigger floods, was still nowhere close to causing lahar flows.

In Polangui town, which was celebrating its fiesta Saturday, floodwaters went ankle-deep in many areas, prompting Salceda to urge the townsfolk to “take extra precautions” and carry on with their celebrations safely.

In Naga City, the turnover and unveiling of a newly built basketball court and sports facility in Barangay Abella by Philippine Basketball Association star players Benjie Paras, Jhonny Abarientos and Jerry Cordinera was cancelled due to the storm, said Krhizzy Pasigan, public relations partner of sponsoring group Alaxan FR.

In Romblon, more than 300 passengers were stranded Saturday morning, said Eugene Cabrera, director of the regional disaster council of the Mimaropa region, which consists of the islands of Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan.

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration said in its 11 a.m. bulletin that Gorio made landfall in Hernani, Eastern Samar earlier in the morning.

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