Disaster risk reduction plan set as ‘Gorio’ signal No. 2 up

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UNPREDICTABLE ENCHANTRESS A boy pushes his bike along a rice field while admiring the enchanting Mayon Volcano on his way home to Barangay Lidong, Sto. Domingo town, Albay province. Albay authorities are considering banning mountain climbers from the area after volcanologists raised the state of alert around the volcano from normal to level 1. With Albay under “Gorio” storm signal No. 2 on Sunday, Phivolcs has issued a lahar-slide warning. AL BENAVENTE/CONTRIBUTOR

The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) was on Saturday already bracing for the arrival of Tropical Storm “Gorio,” deploying hundreds of rescue personnel and ordering the dismantling of billboards.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) on Saturday said the first responders from the military, police and the Bureau of Fire Protection were already on red alert.

Gorio was on Saturday seen as hitting Metro Manila directly early Sunday, although it could still change course and spare the capital.

Based on the predicted path of the storm, Gorio is seen as striking Metro Manila between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m. Sunday, most likely over the southern parts of the metropolis, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) said Saturday.

The weather bureau on Saturday placed Metro Manila and several Luzon provinces under storm signal No. 2, indicating winds of 61 to 100 kilometers per hour.

“The central track of the forecast shows that the storm will be moving a little bit toward the southern part of Metro Manila, but again, it may deviate from that track,” forecaster Chris Perez told a press briefing.

“Whether it goes over the southern part or the northern part, we advise the public to continue monitoring the situation,” he said.

Pagasa warned residents of Bicol, Southern Luzon, Central Luzon and Metro Manila to be on guard against flash floods and landslides in the wake of the storm.

Gorio is predicted to bring moderate-to-heavy rains at the rate of 5 to 15 millimeters per hour within its 300-km diameter.

Gorio made landfall over the town of Hernani in Eastern Samar earlier on Saturday. Pagasa said in its 11 a.m. bulletin that Gorio had made landfall over Hernani Saturday morning. Its center was located 30 km southeast of Catbalogan, Samar, with maximum winds of 65 kph near the center, gustiness of up to 80 kph, and moving northwest at 19 kph.

As of 4 p.m. Saturday, the eye of the storm was observed at 40 km southeast of Legazpi City.

Gorio, the seventh tropical cyclone to hit the country this year, was packing peak winds of 65 kph and gusts of up to 80 kph. It is forecast to move northwest at 24 kph, moving at a brisker pace than six hours earlier, Perez said.

By Sunday afternoon, the storm is expected to be 60 km northwest of Iba, Zambales, after passing through Metro Manila in the morning. By Monday afternoon, it will be 560 km northwest of Sinait, Ilocos Sur, and out of the country, Pagasa said.

Preparation

As of early Saturday evening, around 200 of MMDA’s Task Force Monsoon had been deployed to 11 stations throughout Metro Manila, assistant general manager for operations Emerson Carlos said in a phone interview.

The task force will monitor possible flooding and heavy traffic and will assist in possible rescue operations, he said.

Rescue trucks, augmented by army trucks, are already on standby at the MMDA headquarters in Guadalaupe, Makati City, Carlos said.

The MMDA on Saturday also sent notices to billboard operators to start dismantling all outdoor advertisements. By 4 p.m., large billboard advertisements along Edsa were already being taken down.

Undersecretary Eduardo del Rosario, the NDRRMC executive director, urged residents in low-lying areas to leave their homes and seek temporary shelter in evacuation centers.

“It’s an inconvenience for these residents but it will only be for 24 hours,” he said in a phone interview.

What is important is for the residents to avoid any accidents when rivers and canals could overflow and cause flooding, he said.

Del Rosario said the MMDA had made the necessary preparations for the metropolis, while the NDRRMC coordinated all the disaster preparations nationwide.

Though Gorio made landfall in Hernani town at 8 a.m. Saturday, Hernani Mayor Edgar Boco said it did not cause any floods or landslides in the municipality.

“What we have experienced was just light rains. And we’re glad that the typhoon did not result in any destruction here in our town,” Boco said in a phone interview.

Floods in Tacloban City ranged from .04 meters to .045 meters deep, according to the Tacloban City Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council.

 

Stranded passengers

Nearly 3,000 passengers were stranded in various major ports in Bicol as the region braced for Gorio on Saturday with public storm signal No. 2 hoisted over six Bicol provinces.

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

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) meanwhile warned that an intense rain of 60 mm per hour might trigger some 29 million cubic meters of old lahar deposit to cascade down the Masarawag slopes of Mt. Mayon in Guinobatan, Albay.

Ed Laguerta, Phivolcs resident volcanologist here, told members of Albay Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council that threatened by the 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 the 2007 and 2009 eruptions, he said.

As of noon on Saturday, however, the rainfall intensity of 28.44 mm per hour, while able to trigger floods, was nowhere near causing a lahar flow.

In Polangui town, which was celebrating its fiesta on Saturday, floodwaters had reached ankle-deep in many areas, prompting Albay Gov. Joey Salceda to urge the townsfolk to “take extra precautions” and mark the event safely.

In Romblon, more than 300 passengers were stranded on Saturday in at least three ports due to Tropical Storm Gorio, said Eugene Cabrera, director of the DRRMC in Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, Palawan.

In Cebu City, more than 4,000 passengers were stranded in the ports of Cebu and Northern Cebu while flights were also canceled because of Gorio.

Northern Cebu, including Bantayan and Camotes islands, were among  the areas placed under signal No. 1.

The grounded vessels were bound for Manila, Surigao City, Leyte, Calbayog in Samar, Masbate, Hilongos in Southern Leyte, Cataingan in Masbate, Bato and Ormoc City in Leyte.

In Northern Samar, 1,997 passengers bound for Metro Manila were stranded in the ports of Balwartico and Dapdap in Allen town after the PCG stopped vessels from sailing.

Canceled flights

At least 23 domestic flights at Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia), mostly to and from Bicol and the Visayas, were canceled on Saturday because of bad weather.

The Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA), the state operator of Naia, said a total of 13 arrival and 10 departure flights were canceled at Terminals 2, 3 and 4 as of 5 p.m. Saturday.

Most of the aborted flights were Cebu Pacific trips to and from Legazpi City, Albay, and Caticlan and Kalibo in Aklan.

Air Philippines Express and Zest Airways also canceled flights to and from Tacloban City, Leyte; Calbayog City, Western Samar; and Catarman, Northern Samar.

The MIAA advised all air travelers going to or coming from areas affected by Gorio to keep in touch with their airlines for cancellations, delays and rebookings. With reports from Nikko Dizon and Jaymee T. Gamil, in Manila; Mar S. Arguelles, Maricar Cinco and Shiena Barrameda, Inquirer Southern Luzon; Joey A. Gabieta and Jhunnex Napallacan, Inquirer Visayas; and Mar Arguelles, Inquirer Southern Luzon

 First posted 12:23 am | Sunday, June 30th, 2013

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