‘Agaton’ spoils revelry in Visayas, Mindanao
As the first day of the new year began, officials in several southern provinces prepositioned equipment and emergency responders, and evacuated residents of flooded communities ahead of the first storm to hit the country in 2018.
Rains brought by Tropical Depression “Agaton” east of Surigao City drenched the eastern and northern parts of Mindanao and parts of the Visayas on Monday as it tracked the general path of Tropical Storm “Vinta” (international name: Tembin) 10 days earlier, according to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa).
“The track of Agaton is similar to Vinta, which is why we’re concerned because the soil is still moist due to rains from Vinta,” said Pagasa weather division chief Esperanza Cayanan. “Agaton rains are not as strong as Vinta, but it can worsen the effects.”
Agaton, which had gusts of up to 60 kilometers per hour was moving westward from the Pacific Ocean at 19 kph late Monday afternoon.
It was forecast to make landfall in the Caraga region late on Monday or early on Tuesday, and move across Northern Mindanao and the Zamboanga Peninsula on the way to Palawan. It was expected to be 65 kilometers east of Dipolog City in Zamboanga del Norte on Tuesday.
Signal No. 1
Storm signal no. 1 was hoisted as of 5 p.m. over southern Leyte, Surigao del Norte including Siargao Island, Surigao del Sur, Dinagat Islands, Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Davao Oriental, Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur, North Cotabato, Compostela Valley, Misamis Oriental, Misamis Occidental, Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, Camiguin and Bukidnon.
Abeliza Manzano, provincial disaster management officer of Lanao del Norte where Vinta left 117 dead, told the Inquirer all disaster management offices in the province’s 22 towns had been
directed to preposition their respective disaster response teams all the way down to the barangays.
Manzano said earthmovers like bulldozers, backhoes and payloaders, as well as transport vehicles and ambulances were moved to command centers for rapid emergency response.
In Cebu province’s Toledo City, at least 800 residents from 16 villages skipped the traditional New Year’s Eve revelry and slept through the night in barangay halls, sports complexes and churches where they had fled after floodwaters that inundated their homes.
“They were not in the mood to celebrate the New Year. The evacuation centers were so quiet,” said Neil Cabañero of the city’s disaster management office.
Heavy rains fell nonstop from around 2 p.m. on Sunday up to past midnight on Monday, swelling rivers and flooding the villages with waist-deep waters, according to disaster management office chief Alexander Abella.
“There was a possibility that the floodwaters would rise further if the rains didn’t stop,” he added.
The flooded barangays were Caban-og, Daanglungsod, Captain Claudio, Sangi, Luray II, Poblacion, Ilihan, Tubod, Matab-ang, Talavera, Dumlog, Ibo, Carmen, Kabituonan, Bato and Awihaw.
Landslides were also reported in the villages of Lamdahan and Matab-ang, Abella said.
Light to moderate rains also fell on the four Davao provinces and Compostela Valley early Monday afternoon as Agaton blew closer to the Caraga region.
Authorities said they had ordered preemptive evacuations in flood-prone areas in Nabunturan town on New Year’s Eve, according to Raul Villocino, Compostela Valley provincial disaster action officer.
In Monkayo town, Villocino said dump trucks and payloaders were prepositioned for quick deployment on Monday.
Gov. Jayvee Tyron Uy urged residents near rivers and the province’s gold panning areas to take precautions and heed calls by local officials to evacuate in case of severe flooding and landslides.
Col. Ezra Enriquez, deputy commander of the 2nd Mechanized Infantry Brigade based in Iligan City, said they had also deployed troops to support local governments in Lanao del Norte.
“They were directed to closely monitor the situation so that they could easily respond,” Enriquez said.
He said soldiers deployed to Salvador town also brought relief goods for residents who had been displaced by Vinta.
In Lanao del Sur, where 36 people had died in Vinta’s wake, officials were also on high alert, according to Salma Jaynie Tamano, provincial information officer.
Tamano said preemptive evacuations were ongoing in low-lying areas, including towns near Lake Lanao, as these were prone to flooding.
Vinta had intensified into a typhoon as it blew out of the country on Christmas Eve. —WITH REPORTS FROM JODEE A. AGONCILLO AND JAYMEE GAMIL
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