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‘Urduja’ triggers floods, slides

Satellite image of “Urduja” as of 3:10 am Dec. 16. From Pagasa website

TACLOBAN CITY—A 7-year-old boy drowned while three fishermen went missing as Tropical Storm “Urduja” dumped heavy rains on Eastern Visayas on Friday, triggering floods and landslides in at least 22 towns and displacing more than 24,000 families.

The bad weather also forced the suspension of classes and work across the region while brownout was reported in the provinces of Samar and Northern Samar.

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) said Urduja (international name: Kai-tak) was expected to make landfall in Northern or Eastern Samar as early as Saturday morning.

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On red alert

Despite moving at a sluggish 5 kilometers per hour, the tropical cyclone forced air carriers to cancel a total of 16 domestic flights from Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

Operations centers of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), particularly in the Eastern Visayas and Bicol regions, were put on red alert on Friday, requiring all its personnel to be on 24-hour standby.

Highest amount of rainfall

Pagasa said the highest amount of rainfall on Friday was registered in Guiuan and Borongan in Eastern Samar, Catbalogan in western Samar, as well as Tacloban City and Maasin, southern Leyte.

Accumulated rainfall amount in Guiuan reached 780 millimeters over 24 hours, past its normal monthly accumulated average of 440 millimeters.

In Sorsogon province, more than 3,000 people remained stranded at the port of Matnog town on Friday as the Philippine Coast Guard stopped passenger, cargo and fishing vessels from sailing.

The boy, David Bravo, from Mahaplag town in Leyte, was with his mother when he was swept away by rampaging floodwaters about 7 a.m. on Friday, said Arvin Monge of the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO).

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Monge said the mother, who was not identified in the report, was about to throw their garbage into the water canal when floodwaters swept the boy.

Heavy rains triggered floods in the towns of Tolosa, Palo, Capoocan, San Miguel, Babatngon and Dulag in Leyte and 16 towns in Samar, Biliran, Eastern Samar and Northern Samar.

In Samar, the swollen Calbiga River in Calbiga town forced 15 families in Barangay Polangi to move to the town center, according to Van Torrevillas, Samar PDRRMO officer.

Displaced by floods

Minor landslides hit the villages of Cantigum in Calbiga, Polangi and Maulong in Catbalogan City while floods displaced at least 70 families in Barangay Tulay, Sta. Rita town in Samar province.

Floods also forced 16 families from their homes in Barangay Atipolo, Naval town in Biliran, said provincial disaster officer Jun Docillo.

In Eastern Samar, 24,702 families from 150 barangays in the towns of Jipapad, Maslog, Arteche, Can-avid, Dolores, Salcedo, Balangkayan, Quinapondan and Oras were also affected by floods due to heavy rains.

Missing fishermen

George Erroba, provincial administrator, said three fishermen—Pepito Gacho Jr. and Rogelio Gamalo from Lawaan town and Elmer Beruja from Balangiga town—had been reported missing in the wake of the storm’s onslaught.

Gacho and Gamalo went out to sea on Wednesday, while Beruja was reported missing by  family members on Friday, Erroba said.

In Northern Samar, floods forced the evacuation of 156 families from the towns of Catubig, Lope de Vega, Las Navas and Mondragon, said Rei Josiah Echano, PDRRMC officer.

At least 1,828 passengers were stranded in Allen town, Northern Samar, after the Coast Guard barred vessels from crossing to Luzon.

In all, at least 39 passenger vessels and nine cargo ships were barred from leaving the different ports in Cebu, officials said.

Pagasa said Metro Manila and nearby provinces were also expected to experience moderate to heavy rainfall this weekend.

As of 12 noon on Friday, the slow-moving storm was located 240 km east of Borongan City in Eastern Samar, moving northwest.

Rains are seen to be moderate to heavy within the 500 km diameter of the storm, Pagasa said.

Storm signals were already hoisted over 17 areas in the country.

Signal No. 2

Signal No. 2 was raised over Northern Samar, Eastern Samar, Samar and Biliran; and No. 1 in Catanduanes, Camarines Sur, Albay, Sorsogon, Romblon, and Masbate, including Burias and Ticao islands; Leyte, Southern Leyte, northern Cebu, Capiz, Aklan, and northern Iloilo, and Dinagat Islands.

Though Urduja’s winds are relatively weak—with maximum sustained winds possibly reaching up to 75 kph near the center and gustiness of up to 90 kph as of noon on Friday—Pagasa advised that sea travel remained risky over the eastern seaboards of Bicol region and the Visayas.

Canceled flights

Among the flights canceled as of 4 p.m. were three PAL Express flights to Tacloban City and Legazpi City, three Cebu Pacific flight to Tacloban, one Cebgo flight to Masbate, and one Skyjet flight to Siargao in Surigao del Norte. Return flights from these places were also canceled.

As of 11 a.m. on Friday, the NDRRMC operations center monitored some 8,500 stranded passengers in the seaports of Manila, Eastern Visayas, Bicol region and on Western Visayas, according to spokesperson Mina Marasigan.

Reports from the Office of Civil Defense in Bicol said 4,461 passengers were staying in ports around the region. —WITH REPORTS FROM JEANETTE I. ANDRADE, JEROME ANING, RACHEL ARNAIZ AND MOREXETTE ERRAM

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TAGS: Eastern Visaya, Pagasa weather updates, Philippine news updates, Tropical Storm Urduja
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