Typhoon ‘Ompong’ takes aim at Northern Luzon
Typhoon “Ompong” further intensified as it entered the Philippine area of responsibility on Wednesday afternoon, growing in diameter from 600 kilometers on Tuesday to 900 km and prompting more areas to take precautionary measures.
“There is still a possibility that it will reach the supertyphoon (category),” said Vicente Molano, administrator of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa).
Packing sustained winds of 205 kilometers per hour and gusts of 255 kph on Wednesday, “Ompong” (international name: Mangkhut) is forecast to strengthen to 220 kph on Thursday, enabling the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration to categorize it as a supertyphoon.
At 4 p.m. on Wednesday, the typhoon was tracked at 1,145 km east of Virac, Catanduanes province, moving westward at 20 kph.
Ompong is expected to make landfall in northern Cagayan province or the Batanes group of islands on Saturday, but it will bring stormy weather to most of Luzon as early as Friday, according to weather specialist Gener Quitlong.
Pagasa raised Storm Signal No. 1 in Catanduanes on Wednesday afternoon and in southern Luzon on Thursday.
Forecasters warned residents in the coastal villages along the eastern seaboard of Luzon to brace for storm surges of up to 6 meters.
The dangers posed by Ompong have prompted the authorities, schools and residents to take a number of measures:
- Early harvest of rice in Cagayan Valley
- Preemptive evacuation by Thursday of those in areas prone to floods and landslides, and those near rivers and coasts
- Postponement of the University of the Philippines College Admission Test scheduled for Saturday and Sunday
- Suspension of classes in Ilocos towns and cities, including Dagupan City, for Thursday and Friday. Also suspended are classes in all elementary and high schools in Lapu-Lapu City on Wednesday and in preschool, elementary and high school in Albay province on Thursday.
- Cancellation of the trip of 301 Davao City delegates to the Batang Pinoy (Philippine Youth Games) in Baguio City. The opening of the games was moved from Sept. 16 to Sept. 17.
- Cancellation of sea trips in Cebu on Sept. 13
Strong winds, heavy rain
The outer bands of Ompong could extend to Metro Manila and the rest of Luzon, bringing strong winds and heavy rain, according to Pagasa.
Other parts of Luzon and portions of the Visayas and Mindanao will experience rain brought by the induced monsoon.
Among regions where preparations have begun are Ilocos, Cagayan Valley, Cordillera Administrative Region, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, Mimaropa, Bicol and Caraga.
Renato Solidum, undersecretary for disaster risk reduction and climate, urged residents in areas lying along the projected path of Ompong to take safety precautions.
“We reiterate that we expect strong winds, heavy rains, severe flooding and landslides with this typhoon,” Solidum said.
“We ask our people in vulnerable areas to check out possible evacuation sites, and get set to flee from their homes whenever necessary,” he added.
He also warned residents living on mountain slopes of the risks of landslides.
Three waves of response
At a press briefing on Wednesday, Executive Director Ricardo Jalad of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said the council had crafted three waves of response.
Damage to crops
The first wave of responders will come from local governments and the second wave from the Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (DRRMO).
The third wave involves the DRRMO in areas outside the affected areas and the national agency.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said Cordillera, Ilocos and Cagayan Valley could suffer up to P7 billion in agricultural damage.
Piñol said on his Facebook page that his office was expecting about 1.2 million hectares of rice and corn farms to be devastated.
Rice and corn losses may amount to P3.3 billion and P4.2 billion, respectively, since these crops were mostly ready for harvest, he said.
In Isabela province, Romulo Caspe said he quickly harvested his palay produce in Barangay San Antonio as a precaution.
At the farming village of Bungcag in Dingras town, Ilocos Norte, Jude Valencia and his nephew, Lyndon Madrid, plucked green papayas so they could sell these in the market for P15 a kilogram.
Valencia said he feared that his 500 papaya trees may not withstand Ompong. His solution was to peel off the leaves to help the trees recover once Ompong barreled out of the country.
“One optimistic thing about this typhoon is that it may be weakened once it hits the Sierra Madre mountain range (in Isabela), which usually serves as a natural barrier,” Pagasa’s Molano said in a press briefing.
“Also, the seabed along the coastal areas in Cagayan and Isabela is relatively deep, which could help minimize the occurrence of storm surges,” he added.
In Ilocos Norte, Gov. Imee Marcos asked volunteers to prepare more food packs, medicines and other supplies sufficient.
In Bicol region, the Office of Civil Defense advised local disaster councils to prepare and activate their operation centers. —With reports from Leilanie Adriano, Villamor Visaya Jr., Gabriel Cardinoza, Valerie Damian, Carmela Reyes-Estrope, Mar S. Arguelles, Frinston Lim, Matthew Reysio-Cruz, Jaymee Gamil and Karl Ocampo
Inquirer calls for support for the victims of typhoon Ompong
Responding to appeals for help, the Philippine Daily Inquirer is extending its relief to victims of the recent typhoon Ompong.
Cash donations may be deposited in the Inquirer Foundation Corp. Banco De Oro (BDO) Current Account No: 007960018860 and Swift Code: BNORPHMM.
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