‘Usman’ evacuations ordered
TACLOBAN CITY—Bracing for heavy rains and the possible floods and landslides that would ensue, officials on Leyte and Samar islands suspended work in government and private offices and ordered people in flood- and landslide-prone areas to evacuate on Friday as Tropical Depression “Usman” blew closer to the region.
The storm was expected to make landfall in Eastern Samar province on Friday night, according to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa).
Weather specialist Benison Estareja said the rains to be brought by Usman may cause floods and landslides over most parts of the Visayas, the Bicol region, the islands of Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Quezon provinces, as it cuts across central Philippines on Saturday and Sunday.
By 5 p.m. on Friday, Usman was centered 285 kilometers east of Guiuan, Eastern Samar.
Guiuan resident Teresita Guimbaolibot, 63, fearing a repeat of the devastation caused by Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan) five years ago, was preparing to leave her new house.
Her old house in Barangay Campoyong, a coastal village, was destroyed when Yolanda hit her town. “We are all ready to evacuate. We have packed our belongings,” she said.
Tacloban Mayor Cristina Romualdez suspended work in all government offices in the city.
Private offices in Catbalogan City and Pinabacdao in Samar province, and Guiuan and Borongan in Eastern Samar province, also were ordered closed.
About 13 families, or 78 individuals, from Barangay Lico, Naval in Biliran province, were evacuated to safer ground because of a possible landslide.
In Biliran’s Almeria town, officials started forced evacuation on Friday morning in four barangays prone to flooding and landslides, said Richard Sanoy, municipal disaster risk reduction management officer.
Almeria was among the areas in Biliran province most devastated by Typhoon “Urduja,” which killed 13 people in December last year.
“We are being joined by personnel from the Philippine National Police and Bureau of Fire as many of the residents do not like to leave their houses. In fact, we’re forced to tie the hands of those who do not cooperate with us,” he said.
Sea travel suspended
The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) suspended sea travel and said at least 4,511 ferry passengers were stranded at the ports of San Isidro and Allen in Northern Samar, Ormoc City in Leyte and Liloan in Southern Leyte.
The Office of Civil Defense in Bicol reported close to 8,500 passengers were stranded on Friday afternoon at the ports of Sorsogon, Albay, Camarines Sur and Masbate provinces.
Flooding was reported at Barangay Buenaventura in Buhi town, Camarines Sur, and knee-deep water affected Casiguran town in Sorsogon where one river had overflowed its banks, said Luisito Mendoza Jr., chief of the town’s disaster management office.
The suspension of sea travel in Western Visayas stranded about 1,200 passengers in Negros Occidental, according to Lt. Cmdr. Ramil Palabrica, spokesperson for PCG Western Visayas.
The rains also slowed traffic on Bacolod City’s main roads.
In Manila, presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo on Friday assured the public that the government has prepared for the storm, but encouraged citizens to monitor the weather.
Malacañang said the Department of Social Welfare and Development had a stockpile of food and other emergency items worth about P1.3 million.
Soldiers, police ready
The Department of Health said it had prepositioned about P7.3 million worth of supplies in Western Visayas, Eastern Visayas and Davao.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told reporters in Malacañang that the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council had prepared supplies and disaster responders, including soldiers and police.
“This is not a strong storm, but even with weak winds, the rains will be very strong so there might be floods and landslides. So that’s what we’re trying to prevent—people from falling victim to landslides and floodings,” Lorenzana said. —WITH REPORTS FROM MELVIN GASCON, JULIE M. AURELIO AND CARLA P. GOMEZ
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