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No casualty reported as ‘Gorio’ leaves PH

By , TJ A. Burgonio Jeannette I. Andrade

CLOSER TO LAND Big waves whipped up by Tropical Storm “Gorio” sweep the Minh Tuan 68, a 2,999-ton Vietnamese bulk carrier, to the shore of Barangay San Roque near the port of Legazpi City on Saturday. The vessel has been in the custody of the Bureau of Customs since it was impounded in September last year for transporting 94,000 bags of smuggled rice from Vietnam. JOANNA LOS BAÑOS/INQUIRER SOUTHERN LUZON

No casualty from Tropical Storm “Gorio” (international name: Rumbia) was reported, although it made landfall several times as it barreled through Eastern Visayas and Southern Luzon over the weekend, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said on Sunday.

“We recorded zero casualty and that is good news,” Undersecretary Eduardo del Rosario, the agency’s executive director, told the Inquirer over the phone.

“Of course, we could not say that [it would be like that] 100 percent [in the next several hours]. But if there were casualties, it should have been reported by this time… But as of the moment, we are proud to say that we have zero casualty,” Del Rosario said.

Malacañang was elated that nobody died, as Gorio roared through parts of Luzon before exiting on Sunday.

“The President was monitoring the effects of the weather or the path of storm until, I think, past midnight,” his deputy spokesperson, Abigail Valte, said over government-run dzRB. “We had good preparations. So far… there was no casualty and hopefully it stays that way.”

Packing maximum winds of 65 kilometers per hour and gusting up to 80 kph, the storm veered away from the capital but stranded thousands of commuters, toppled trees and knocked out power in provinces.

At 4 p.m. on Sunday, Gorio was spotted 230 kilometers west of Dagupan City, moving northwest at 26 kph. It had maximum sustained winds of 75 kph near the center and gusts of up to 90 kph, and brought moderate to heavy (5 to 17 millimeters per hour) rainfall within its 400-km diameter.

Although Gorio was on its way out, the weather bureau maintained Signal No. 1 over the provinces of Pangasinan and Zambales with rains and gusty winds, and alerted residents in low-lying and mountainous areas to possible flash floods and landslides.

Residents in coastal areas were cautioned against big waves and storm surges.

Twister in Quezon

At the height of Gorio on Saturday evening, a whirlwind ripped through 41 houses in Jomalig town, Quezon.

Henry Buzar, coordinator of the provincial disaster council, said the twister hit the island-town facing the Pacific Ocean at around 8 p.m., destroying 19 houses and damaging 22 others.

No fatality was reported. “So far, only four residents suffered injuries. They are now being taken care of by local health officials,” Buzar told the Inquirer over the phone.

Evacuation in Albay

Except for some 12,000 people being preemptively evacuated to safer grounds and a Vietnamese vessel getting washed ashore in Legazpi City, Albay province was largely unscathed as Gorio passed through the Bicol area on Saturday afternoon.

Albay Gov. Joey Salceda said 11,691 people (2,309 families) in 14 flood-prone and some slightly flooded villages in the towns of

Sto. Domingo, Libon, Oas, Pio Duran and Jovellar were moved to safer grounds on Saturday afternoon. Most returned home on Sunday.

In Legazpi, the Vietnamese Minh Tuan 68, a 2,999-metric-ton bulk carrier owned by the Ming Truong Shipping Lines, is now stuck on the sandy shore of Barangay (village) San Roque.

The vessel has been impounded by the Bureau of Customs and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) since September last year after it entered the city port with 94,000 bags of rice smuggled from Vietnam.

The ship had been anchored a few hundred meters off the port until it was pushed to the shore of San Roque by storm-spawned waves at around 3 p.m. on Saturday, said Bernardo Rafael Alejandro, regional director of the Office of Civil Defense in Bicol.

Alejandro said the vessel went adrift because its crew could not start the engine, as the fuel tank was empty. There were only five Vietnamese crew members left on the vessel, as the rest of its 11-man crew had returned home to Vietnam, Alejandro said.


The PCG in Bicol reported that 2,999 passengers, 259 trucks, 83 small vehicles, 66 passenger buses, 26 roll-on-roll-off vessels and 18 motorized bancas were stranded in various ports in the region at the height of the storm between Friday and Saturday. Most of the vehicles and vessels were allowed to depart on Sunday after the storm had passed.

But in Lucena City, at least 300 passengers bound for Marinduque Island were still stranded at the Dalahican port, according to Lt. Cmdr. Joel Ogorida, head of the Coast Guard detachment in the city.

In Masbate, a minor landslide was reported to have closed temporarily a road in Barangay Panisijan, Uson. However, prompt response by the District Engineering Office made the road passable again, said Alejandro.

As of 4 p.m. on Sunday, the NDRRMC said only four storm-related incidents were reported to the council, including the landslide in Masbate.

The NDRRMC said a total of 337 families composed of 1,685 individuals in 10 villages in the Bicol region were affected by the storm.

It said 293 families, or 1,465 individuals, were still staying in nine evacuation centers in Bicol.

However, close to 10,000 passengers were still stranded in major sea ports in Central Visayas, Palawan, Bicol, Eastern Visayas and Southern Luzon, the NDRRMC said.

The council said 70 sea vessels, 666 rolling cargoes and 47 motorboats were also stranded in these ports. Two domestic flights at Ninoy Aquino International Airport were canceled on Sunday.

Valte pointed out that hundreds of passengers were stranded at sea ports because passenger ships were barred from sailing in the stormy weather.

“We can see here that our colleagues were consistent in prohibiting small vessels and passenger ships from sailing for areas that were affected by the storm,” she said.

Landfall in seven areas

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) had predicted that the storm could directly hit Metro Manila, but Gorio made landfall seven times in provinces and islands in the Visayas and southern Luzon, sparing the metropolis.

Forecaster Jori Loiz said Gorio made landfall in Hernani, Eastern Samar; Sorsogon; Burias Island; Marinduque; Calapan, Oriental Mindoro; Batangas; and Lubang Island.

Loiz said a high-pressure area over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) had changed the tropical storm’s track and caused it to slightly veer away from its expected path.

The high-pressure area could also absorb the “habagat” (southwest monsoon), which could give the country generally good weather for the week if there are no other weather disturbances that would develop, he said.

Prompt preparations

Malacañang credited the NDRRMC, Metro Manila Development Authority, Department of Social Welfare and Development and other government agencies for their prompt preparations.

“This is a good indication [that the public has learned their lesson] and that includes the prompt issuance of advisories [to our citizens],” Valte said. “We hope it doesn’t end there; we should stay vigilant and that the situation does not change in terms of the casualty.”

Del Rosario lauded the early preparations implemented by local governments in the provinces affected by Gorio, the seventh weather disturbance to hit the country this year.

The NDRRMC chief said the close cooperation among 44 government agencies that composed the NDRRMC was vital in minimizing the impact of floods triggered by the tropical storm.

“The accurate and early forecasting being given by Pagasa greatly helped in the preparations of the people,” he said.

Advisories heeded

Del Rosario also noted that residents in the areas where the storm passed through had heeded the advisories and warnings of local officials.

“Definitely, we have learned our lessons from the previous typhoons. We are better prepared for Gorio. And we also saw the people cooperating with us,” he said.

Del Rosario said those who were told to evacuate went to safer grounds even before Gorio arrived, contributing to the zero casualty.

Isolated rain showers and thunderstorms are still to be expected in Metro Manila and other parts of the country.

Although the weather bureau forecasts generally good weather to prevail, it advised fisher folk and vessels on the country’s western coasts not to sail, as Gorio was lingering over the West Philippine Sea.

The western seaboard of Luzon will be moderate to rough, as Gorio may still intensify on its way out of the Philippine area of responsibility, said Esperanza Cayanan, a regional services division head at Pagasa.

Citing a study by the United Nations World Food Program, Del Rosario said communities could minimize the loss of lives during typhoons if the government was able to conduct public awareness, education and preparation, and implement prevention and mitigation measures.—With reports from Delfin T. Mallari Jr. and Mar Arguelles, Inquirer Southern Luzon

Originally posted: 5:39 pm | Sunday, June 30th, 2013

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Tags: casualties , Disasters , NDRRMC , Tropical Storm “Gorio” , Weather

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