MANILA, Philippines?Typhoon ?Emong? pummeled western towns of Pangasinan province Thursday night, ripping out the roofs of houses, toppling trees and power lines, and plunging many areas in the heavily populated province into darkness.
Earlier Thursday, as Emong (international name: Chan Hom) approached, the weather bureau warned residents in the typhoon?s path against possible flash floods, landslides and ?storm surges? or big waves.
Typhoon Signal No. 1 has been hoisted over Metro Manila.
Rains induced by the typhoon, which packed maximum center winds of 150 kilometers per hour, forced President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to scrap her scheduled visit to Siargao, Surigao del Norte.
Abner Caga, acting regional director of the Philippine Information Agency (PIA-Caraga), said Ms Arroyo was expected to open the Second Siargao Game Fishing Invitational Competition in Pilar town.
The tournament was expected to be attended by about 50 anglers from China, Taiwan, Brunei, Australia, Japan, the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States, Russia and the Philippines.
5th typhoon this year
Director Prisco Nilo of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), said the typhoon?the fifth weather disturbance to enter the Philippine area of responsibility this year?could dump as much as 300 to 400 millimeters of rain.
?If that kind of rain will fall solely in Metro Manila, lampas tao (the waters will be above a man?s head),? Nilo told the Philippine Daily Inquirer (parent company of INQUIRER.net).
There were no immediate reports of casualties. With 2.65 million people, Pangasinan is the third most heavily populated province in the country.
Emong struck a few days after Storm ?Dante? wreaked havoc in the Bicol region, killing at least 27 people.
Emong made landfall on the northern tip of Bolinao town in western Pangasinan at about 7 Thursday night.
Butch Velasco, provincial information officer, said early Thursday night that the Provincial Disaster Coordinating Council had received reports that several houses in Bolinao lost their roofs, forcing two dozen families to flee to evacuation centers.
Mayor Nestor Pulido of Anda, also in Pangasinan, said tree trunks and branches littered roads of the town, which was on the path of the typhoon.
?We could not go out to [remove] the fallen trees because the wind is so strong,? Pulido said in a radio interview. He said strong winds started to whip up his town at about 4 p.m.
Gov. Amado Espino Jr. sent emergency teams to western Pangasinan to clear the roads of debris. Strong winds also disrupted electricity supply, causing power blackouts in most parts of Pangasinan, officials said.
Strongest so far
August Sarmiento, operations manager of Dagupan Electric Corp., said a 69-kilovolt line in Labrador town tripped at 5:50 p.m., cutting power supply to its franchise area, which includes Dagupan City.
?Very strong winds. Not advisable to energize the lines,? Sarmiento said in a text message.
Power outages also hit other central and western Pangasinan towns covered by the Pangasinan Electric Cooperative I and the Pangasinan Central Electric Cooperative.
Nathaniel Cruz, PAGASA assistant administrator, said Emong was moving in a north-northeast direction at 19 kph and would cross into Benguet, Nueva Vizcaya, Isabela and Cagayan provinces before exiting through the Philippine Sea.
?This storm has some strength. It is the strongest for this year so far. We expect a lot of rainfall,? Nilo told reporters.
Improved weather on Saturday
On Friday afternoon, Emong is expected to be 70 km of Tuguegarao City in Cagayan and over the Philippine Sea by Friday night on its way out of the country. But it would still dump rains in the region, PAGASA said.
Cruz said Filipinos could expect improved weather conditions by Saturday.
?Because of the passage of Emong, most likely PAGASA-DOST (Department of Science and Technology) will announce the official start of the rainy season. It?s an early one. Normally, the rainy season starts during the second half of May,? Cruz said.
According to PAGASA?s weather bulletin, Emong will be 300 km northeast of Aparri, Cagayan, by Saturday. By Sunday afternoon, the typhoon will be 330 km north-northeast of Basco, Batanes.
PAGASA said it was unlikely that Emong would reach supertyphoon status.
Cruz said PAGASA expected Emong to weaken by as much as 40 percent as it negotiates the rugged mountains of northern Luzon. But he also said the typhoon would continue to dump rains in the region. He said the typhoon was unlikely to change direction.
As of 4 p.m. Thursday, Signal No. 3 was up over Pangasinan, Zambales, Tarlac, Nueva Vizcaya, La Union, Ilocos Sur, Benguet, Ifugao, Mt. Province, Kalinga, Apayao, Abra and Ilocos Norte.
Signal No. 2 was over the areas of Bataan, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Bulacan, Aurora, Quirino, Isabela and Cagayan, including the Babuyan Islands and the Batanes Group of Islands.
Signal No. 1 was hoisted over Metro Manila, Batangas, Laguna, Rizal, Oriental and Occidental Mindoro, Lubang Island, the Calamian Group of Islands, Cavite and northern Quezon.
Cruz also said low-lying areas and those near major rivers and mountainous areas were under threat of flash floods and landslides, especially in the Cordilleras and Zambales.
?There is a very high possibility of flash floods and landslides in these areas. These areas have been getting rains for the past few days even before Emong came along, so they are vulnerable,? he said.
Cruz also warned of storm surges, or big waves, in the western coastlines of northern and central Luzon. ?If it is possible, residents in these areas should be evacuated to avoid being affected by the storm surges,? he said.
Allan Pineda, chief of PAGASA?s hydrometeorology division, said the water levels in dams across Luzon were still manageable. However, he said three gates in the Magat Dam in the Cagayan area had been opened in anticipation of heavy rainfall.
Cruz said that early in the rainy season, storms affecting the country form over the South China Sea and move in an eastward direction. Later in the season, storms start to form over the Pacific Ocean and move westward. With reports from Yolanda Sotelo and Villamor Visaya Jr., Inquirer Northern Luzon; Tonette Orejas, Inquirer Central Luzon; Franklin A. Caliguid, Inquirer Mindanao; and TJ Burgonio in Manila