3 towns in Aurora isolated by landslides
A day after Typhoon “Labuyo” swept through northern Luzon, at least three towns in Aurora province, where the typhoon made landfall early Monday, remained isolated as landslides triggered by heavy rains and trees toppled by howling winds blocked major roads.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) reported that two people had been confirmed killed and 11 others were missing after Labuyo (international name: Utor), the strongest storm this year, swept across the north of the country on Monday. The Inquirer reported two drowning cases in Surigao and a landslide fatality in Benguet.
“Trees have fallen down, roofs have been torn off houses, electric poles and electric towers have collapsed,” said NDRRMC spokesman Reynaldo Balido, describing the chaos from coastal towns to mountain villages hundreds of kilometers apart.
One of the top priorities for rescuers was the three towns in Aurora that were in the typhoon’s direct path when it made landfall before dawn on Monday.
Flying on a Sokol helicopter, Josefina Timoteo, chair of the Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (RDRRMC), said the typhoon ravaged “60 to 70 percent” of Dinalungan and Casiguran in Aurora.
She and Undersecretary Eduardo del Rosario, NDRRMC chair, failed to reach the third town, Dilasag, due to heavy rains on Tuesday afternoon.
The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) expected cloudy skies and some sunshine over Metro Manila and most parts of the country in the next few days following the departure of Labuyo on Monday night.
But rains and thunderstorms may persist in the western portions of northern Luzon. The southwest monsoon, or hanging habagat, continues to affect the whole Luzon, bringing cloudiness and light to moderate rainfall, forecasters said.
“It’s not like [Typhoon] Pablo,” Timoteo said, referring to the extent of devastation wrought by the typhoon that ravaged many parts of Mindanao in December last year and killed more than 1,000 people. From the air, she said she saw toppled electric posts, damaged houses, schools and hospitals, and landslides along roads and mountainsides.
Also visible were swollen rivers.
Officials of the NDRRMC met with provincial officials in the capital town of Baler to assess the situation in typhoon-hit areas.
Timoteo said national agencies were rushing aid to Aurora because this was the first time that the province encountered such a disaster.
She said a damage assessment would be done to determine the kind of assistance to be extended to the affected communities. Equipment of the Department of Public Works and Highways have begun clearing the road leading to northern Aurora.
Aurora disaster chief Elson Egargue said the mayor of Casiguran reported that 95 percent of the buildings in the town had been destroyed.
Rescuers deployed earth-moving equipment on Tuesday to clear the national highway leading to the three towns, home to about 45,000 people, which was blocked in several areas by landslides, floods and fallen tree trunks, Egargue said.
However, Egargue and Balido said officials had not reported any major deaths, giving cause for optimism.
“These towns are used to typhoons so we hope they have become more resilient and avoided casualties,” Balido said.
Aurora was left with only P5 million in calamity funds, which, Gov. Gerardo Noveras said, was not enough to help those left homeless.
The military has also been mobilized to bring relief goods, especially to the hardest-hit and isolated towns of Dinalungan, Casiguran and Dilasag.
Reports from the RDRRMC said 16 villages in the towns of Casiguran, Dilasag, Dinalungan, Dipaculao, Ma. Aurora, San Luis and Dingalan experienced floods and landslides, affecting 566 families (1,962 people). At least 132 families moved to 20 evacuation centers in these areas.
The typhoon left 127 families homeless in Dipaculao, Dinalungan, Maria Aurora and San Luis. The houses of 1,048 families in these towns were damaged.
State of calamity
Damage to rice, vegetables, bananas, livestock and fishery in Aurora was initially estimated at P4.5 million. Roads, bridges and dikes worth P38.6 million were damaged. Telecommunication and electricity providers have yet to report the damage incurred by their systems.
Officials in Aurora are meeting on Wednesday to discuss the declaration of the province under a calamity state. Reports said Quirino province and Masinloc town in Zambales province have put their areas under a state of calamity to access funds to help typhoon victims.
Floods and landslides affected 122,059 residents in 95 villages in Central Luzon, with 25,470 of them taking refuge in 64 schools and village halls converted as evacuation centers.
As of 1 p.m. on Tuesday, no one had been reported killed in typhoon-related incidents, reports from the RDRRMC showed.
In Zambales, Graciela Macabare, head of the provincial management disaster department, said police and the Philippine Army and Navy sent personnel, vehicles and a rubber boat to the towns of Candelaria, Masinloc and Sta. Cruz to help evacuate residents.
The regional disaster office said the gates of the Angat and Ipo Dams in Bulacan province, and Pantabangan Dam in Nueva Ecija province were not opened as water levels there were still below the spilling levels.
In Isabela, rice, corn, bananas and vegetables worth about P200 million were destroyed by the typhoon in the province’s 34 towns and the cities of Ilagan and Cauayan.
Reports from the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (PDRRMC) said Dominador Zillabo of Barangay Ueg in San Mariano town was electrocuted on Monday. As the typhoon raged, he was fixing his television antenna.
In Pangasinan province, 16 of the 25 fishermen reported missing as Labuyo battered northern Luzon have returned home. Six of them, all from Bolinao town, reached the shores of San Fernando City in La Union province on Tuesday.
On Monday night, PDRRMC Executive Director Fernando de Guzman said 10 fishermen from Infanta town returned home. This group left the town on Aug. 8.
The fishermen’s relatives reported them missing after losing contact with them as Labuyo crossed northern Luzon and induced huge waves in the northwestern Luzon seaboard.
“That leaves us only nine missing fishermen from Infanta,” De Guzman said. The nine fishermen left Infanta on Aug. 5.
Bolinao Administrator Fred Castelo said the six fishermen from his town sailed to the West Philippine Sea to fish on Aug. 9 and were expected to return on Sunday night.
“I was told that on their way home, they encountered huge waves, breaking the outrigger of their motorboat,” he said.
He also clarified that only six fishermen from his town were reported missing, not 11 as the PDRRMC had reported.
Senior Insp. Ronnie Maramba, Infanta police chief, said the 10 fishermen reached Barangay Cato in Infanta at about 7 p.m. on Monday. They were on their boat marked “Super Boy” when they were seen by the Philippine Coast Guard patrol approaching the shore.
Labuyo destroyed at least P53 million worth of crops, fish and roads, bridges and dikes in Pangasinan as it moved out of the country on Tuesday.
The PDRRMC said rescue workers were looking for a man who drowned on Monday while swimming in a river in Sta. Barbara town.
De Guzman said 252 hectares of rice fields in the towns of Umingan, Natividad and Binalonan and Urdaneta City remained under water.
The typhoon dumped torrential rains in the province, causing rivers and irrigation canals to overflow, flooding agricultural and residential areas and some roads in low-lying villages.
On Tuesday, 517 of 1,260 people displaced by flooding remained in evacuation centers. De Guzman said relief packs were sent to evacuation centers in Calasiao and Bugallon towns and Urdaneta City.
The Binga hydroelectric dam in Benguet province still had its two spillway gates open at half a meter each after its water elevation reached 572.32 meters above sea level (masl) on Monday. The dam has a maximum water elevation of 575 masl.
De Guzman said this was not a cause for alarm for Pangasinan residents because Binga dam water releases flow directly to San Roque Dam, which is located downstream of Agno River in San Manuel town.
At 6 a.m. on Tuesday, the water elevation at the San Roque Dam’s reservoir was 244.03 masl, or 35.97 meters below its maximum level of 280.
De Guzman said the water level in the low-lying towns of Sta. Barbara and Calasiao was still rising because they were catching water from the rivers in eastern Pangasinan towns that all drain into the Lingayen Gulf.
The Agno River Basin Flood Forecasting and Warning Center in Rosales town, in a flood bulletin issued on Tuesday, warned residents in Sta. Barbara, Calasiao, Binmaley, Binalonan and Malasiqui and the cities of Urdaneta and Dagupan that water level in the Sinocalan, Ingalera and Tagamusing rivers remained critical.
But flooding was no longer expected in central Pangasinan towns traversed by the Bued River system, the center said.
On Tuesday, Labuyo was in the South China Sea heading toward southern China, according to the Hong Kong Observatory. It said the typhoon’s wind gusts were reaching 155 kilometers an hour.
Metro Manila and most parts of the country will see improving weather in the next few days, Pagasa forecaster Connie Dadivas said.
Based on Pagasa’s 24-hour weather outlook, the regions of Ilocos and Cordillera and the provinces of Zambales, Bataan, Mindoro, Marinduque and Romblon will be cloudy with moderate to occasionally heavy rain showers and thunderstorms.
The bureau warned that these may trigger flash floods and landslides.
“The rest of the country will experience cloudy skies with light to moderate rain showers and thunderstorms,” Pagasa said.
Moderate to strong winds blowing from the southwest will prevail over Luzon and Visayas and the coastal waters along these areas will be moderate to rough. Elsewhere, winds will be light to moderate coming from the southwest.—Reports from Tonette Orejas, Robert Gonzaga, Cesar Villa and Carmela Reyes-Estrope, Inquirer Central Luzon, and Gabriel Cardinoza and Villamor Visaya Jr., Inquirer Northern Luzon; Nikko Dizon and DJ Yap in Manila; and AFP