Tropical Storm ‘Ofel’ slices across Visayas; 4 dead
Tropical Storm “Ofel” streaked diagonally across the Visayas Thursday but left at least four people dead, six fishermen missing and thousands more fleeing their flooded homes.
Huge waves spawned by the storm battered coastal towns in Compostela Valley, while floods caused by rains and swollen rivers submerged villages in Romblon, Oriental Mindoro, Marinduque, Palawan, Batangas and Capiz, disaster officials said.
A cargo ship reportedly sank in Zamboanga City. Several tugboats ran aground in Leyte and Cebu.
Air and sea travel was suspended, stranding hundreds of passengers at airport terminals and ports. Classes in Albay, Batangas and Capiz were called off.
Ofel is expected to be out of the country this afternoon, heading toward the West Philippine Sea and Vietnam, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) said in bulletin released at 4 p.m. Thursday.
Pagasa forecaster Jori Loiz said that when the storm was spotted 40 kilometers west of Mamburao, Occidental Mindoro, at 10 a.m., it had gained wind strength from 65 kilometers per hour to 75 kph and gustiness from 80 kph to 90 kph. It was accelerating as it crossed the southern part of Mindoro Island at a speed of 22 kph in a west-northwest direction.
The weather agency lowered storm signals for all areas in the Visayas and Mindanao, but kept Signal No. 1 hoisted over Metro Manila, Bataan, Zambales, Cavite, Batangas, the northern part of Mindoro and Lubang Island.
Regional disaster officials reported that an 8-year-old boy, identified as Jonnie Ocson, drowned on Wednesday in Barangay (village) Canduyong, Odiongan, Romblon,
Falling trees caused by strong winds killed Napoleon Gonzalez, 49, a municipal employee in Dumarao town in Capiz, and Salustiano Fabellon, 77, in Concepcion town in Romblon.
In Marinduque, Sophia Recto, 88, of Torrijos town died of hypothermia.
Authorities were still searching for three fishermen who went missing off Romblon, despite a report from the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) that two of them had been found yesterday afternoon. The three were identified as Joel Po, 46, Mario Palimpye, 23, and Rene Revilla, 32, all of Torrijos, Marinduque.
In Batangas City, two fishermen from Barangay Cuta were reported missing since 3 a.m. yesterday. The whereabouts of another fisherman, Junry Acaso, 28, from Pintuyan town, Southern Leyte, was still unknown since he went out to sea to catch squid.
Five houses were damaged as waves and winds struck the coastal towns of Maco, Mabini and Pantukan in Compostela Valley on Wednesday, the provincial disaster action officer, Raul Villocino, said.
In Oriental Mindoro, 82 families moved out of their homes after flood hit the towns of Pola, Baco, and Pinamalayan. In Marinduque, 40 families were also affected by flood in Barangay Tawiran, Sta. Cruz.
Three villages in Magdiwang, Romblon, were submerged in waist-deep flood. In Palawan, two rivers in Bataraza town rose and caused knee-high flood in Barangays Bono bono, Sandoval and Culandanum.
Residents also evacuated in Lobo town in Batangas when a river overflowed in Barangays Fabrica, Olo-Olo, Nagtaluntong, Sawang and Saloc.
Laguna de Bay rose by two inches to a water level of 12.8 meters over the past 24 hours.
Power supply in Masbate City and parts of Laguna and Quezon was cut off since Wednesday night, a bulletin released by the Office of Civil Defense regional director, Raffy Alejandro, said.
Stranded in ports
Nearly 13,000 passengers were stranded in ports in Central Visayas, Bicol, northern Mindanao, Southern Tagalog, Western Visayas, Eastern Visayas and Metro Manila as several vessels remained grounded, according to the PCG spokesperson, Cmdr. Armand Balilo.
The ML Lady RP II, a cargo ship loaded with 1,166 sacks of copra, reportedly sank at Wee Bin Pier in Zamboanga City at the height of the storm, Balilo said. It came from Sibutu, Tawi-Tawi.
In Romblon, the PCG said a tugboat, the MT Carol, ran aground near Carmen Bay on Tablas Island.
As of 4 p.m. Thursday, Ofel was tracked at 200 km west of Manila. Pagasa expected it to be 530 km west of Vigan City, Ilocos Sur, this afternoon.
At least 16 morning flights at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) were canceled Thursday due to bad weather.
At Naia Terminal 3, Cebu Pacific Air aborted two flights to Caticlan, one each to Legaspi, Ozamiz and Pagadian cities, and all return trips. Two Caticlan-Manila flights with no return trips were stopped.
Air Philippines also prevented flights to Masbate and Caticlan, and their return trips.
The Manila International Airport Authority called on passengers to keep in touch with the airlines for cancellations and rebooking procedures. With reports from Maricar Cinco, Mar Arguelles and Erika Lesaba, Inquirer Southern Luzon; Jani Arnaiz, Joey Gabieta, Felipe Celino, Jhunnex Napallacan and Nestor Burgos Jr., Inquirer Visayas; Frinston L. Lim, Inquirer Mindanao; and Tina G. Santos, DJ Yap and Jerome Aning in Manila
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