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Philippines braces for Typhoon ‘Quiel’ today

17th typhoon to hit the country threatens Northern Luzon anew


03:06 AM October 1st, 2011

By: Kristine L. Alave, October 1st, 2011 03:06 AM

LIFELINE HOTLINE. A rescue worker carries a flood victim on his shoulders in Hagonoy, Bulacan province, on Friday. Officials and residents pin blame for the flooding on the release of excess waters from Angat Dam. MARIANNE BERMUDEZ

There will be no rest for the flood-weary.

Typhoon “Quiel” (international name: Nalgae) on Friday gained strength and expanse as it hurtled toward Luzon, threatening the northern and central regions, the very same regions barely  recovering from Typhoon “Pedring,” with more rains and floods and disrupting reconstruction efforts.

In Malacanañg, President Benigno Aquino III called on Filipinos to heed authorities’ instructions to move away from danger.

He said the relief and recovery efforts addressed to the effects of Pedring would continue even as the country was preparing for Quiel’s impact.

Graciano Yumul Jr., the Department of Science and Technology undersecretary overseeing Pagasa, expressed worry that Quiel would hit land early today (Saturday) while everybody was asleep.

“From the forecast, the storm will make landfall in the morning, at around 8 am. But there is also the possibility that it will come earlier, at dawn, so it is important for residents of northern Luzon to be more careful,” he said, adding:

“Likewise, those living in coastal areas are alerted against big waves or storm surges generated by this tropical cyclone.”

Robert Sawi, chief forecaster of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa), said at a briefing on Friday that Quiel was expected to ravage northern Luzon starting today until Sunday, when it would leave the mainland through Ilocos Norte.

“Quiel is expected to make landfall in Cagayan-Isabela and we expect it to grow stronger,” Sawi said, adding that the typhoon’s winds were moving at 140 kilometers per hour near the center and gusting at 170 kph.

Weather officials also described the typhoon, which was spotted at 490 km east of Tuguegarao City as of 4 p.m. Friday, as compact, fast-moving and traveling west at 26 kph.

500-km diameter

Pagasa moved its usual press briefing to 4 p.m. from 5 p.m. Friday as Quiel churned across the seas.

Yumul said Quiel was expected to increase the hazards in northern and central Luzon, where towns and villages are still swamped by floodwaters.

Quiel now has a diameter of 500 km, growing from 400 km measured yesterday morning. Its rain band, which contains 15-25 millimeters of rain per hour, will cover the entire north Luzon, weather models showed.

Yumul said it was important for residents in flood- and landslide-prone areas to heed evacuation orders from local government officials.

Pedring damaged crop lands and residential areas when it hit Central Luzon and Metro Manila early this week. Its fierce winds, which reached 150 kph, also downed power lines and destroyed infrastructure.

The rains from Pedring also forced major dams in Luzon to release water, worsening the floods.

Saturation point

Yumul warned residents of the affected regions of more floods and landslides over the weekend, and urged them to move to safe ground.

“The land is so saturated with water already. If it cannot absorb it anymore, there would be more flash floods and landslides,” he said.

As of Friday, Storm Signal No. 3 has been raised over Cagayan and Isabela; Signal No. 2 over northern Aurora, Quirino, Ifugao, Mt. Province, Kalinga, Apayao, Calayan and Babuyan Group of Islands; and Signal No. 1 over the rest of Aurora, Nueva Vizcaya, Pangasinan, Benguet, La Union, Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur and Abra.

The rest of the country will experience rains from the southwest monsoon, which is expected to intensify when Quiel exits Luzon, Sawi said.

“The model output showed that on Friday night, the eye of Quiel will be pushing closer to the mainland. We will be seeing isolated rain showers in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao,” he said.

The managers of the nine major dams scattered all over Luzon will receive rainfall from Friday until Saturday due to Quiel and the southwest monsoon, Pagasa said.

Yumul said that as far as Pagasa was concerned, correct information had been sent to the dam managers on the amount of rainfall that would hit their areas.

He said it was not Pagasa’s duty to say when the dam gates should be opened. “We only provide technical information,” he said.

Risk reduction

In a statement released late Friday afternoon, the President said:

“Relief and recovery from Pedring will be a priority and a continuing effort even as we brace our respective communities for the potentially more damaging onslaught of Quiel. I therefore ask our fellow citizens to heed our national and local authorities so that we can all achieve our common goal in disaster risk reduction.”

“Let me emphasize: We need to move all those in danger. In particular, let us help each other persuade fisherfolk and residents of coastal, low-lying and mountainous areas to be on alert and be extra cautious. Let us keep the spirit of bayanihan alive by showing our concern for the more vulnerable sectors.”

Mr. Aquino said that with Pedring’s onslaught and Quiel’s anticipated effects, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council had been taking all necessary precautions from early warning and preemptive evacuation to ongoing relief and recovery operations.

He said that through the directive of the council’s chair, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, the Armed Forces Disaster Response Task Force had deployed additional search-and-rescue units from the Army, Navy and Air Force, including six helicopters in flooded areas in Central Luzon.

Mr. Aquino also said Metropolitan Manila Development Authority Chair Francis Tolentino has sent a 14-member team with equipment to Bulacan.

He added that “all relevant agencies of government are performing their respective mandates effectively,” and that “local government units have also been performing their duties.” With a report from Norman Bordadora

First posted 12:37 am | Saturday, October 1st, 2011

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