Storm toll: 27 dead, 31 missing
Veering from the path projected by the weather bureau, Tropical Storm “Juaning” dumped heavy rains that caused major flooding and landslides in large areas in Luzon, killing at least 27 people, mostly in the Bicol region.
Albay registered nine fatalities; Camarines Norte, six; Catanduanes, four; Camarines Sur, two, and Quezon, three.
Heavy rains also swelled rivers, claiming the lives of two teenagers in Zambales province.
Fourteen fishermen who were reported missing at sea after strong wind and waves destroyed their motor boat off Balesin Island in Quezon survived the ordeal by swimming to shore and were helped to safety by villagers.
At least 31 people were missing as Juaning (international code name: Nock-ten, a Laotian bird) struck the eastern seaboard of Luzon, authorities said.
More than 645,000 people fled their flooded homes, particularly in Albay and Camarines Sur provinces, Benito Ramos, head of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), said on Wednesday.
“Those two provinces are underwater,” Ramos said.
The severe storm caused power outages in Albay, Catanduanes, Sorsogon, Camarines Norte, Marinduque and Casiguran in Aurora. The water supply service remained intermittent in Legazpi City in Albay.
The NDRRMC said Sorsogon province has had no power since Tuesday 2:40 a.m. Marinduque province was experiencing rotational brownouts af ter strong winds detached some electrical cables.
A state of calamity was declared in Albay and Catanduanes.
“Many of our towns seemed like islands. They were isolated from each other,” Albay Gov. Joey Salceda said from Legazpi City, where he was overseeing rescue efforts for stranded villagers.
Waist-deep floodwaters swamped the houses of half a million people, or nearly half of Albay’s population, after Juaning set off pounding rains overnight and forced many to flee to safer areas, including churches and village halls.
Salceda complained that Albay was hit with heavy rains and strong winds that were inconsistent with the weather bureau’s lower storm warning signal raised over the province.
President Aquino vouched for the accuracy of the weather bureau’s regular updates, but nevertheless said that he would look into Salceda’s complaint.
In response to criticism about Pagasa’s supposed delayed forecast for the Bicol region, Science Undersecretary Graciano Yumul said the weather bureau had been warning about rains in southern Luzon since it monitored the formation of a low pressure area.
He said Pagasa had been putting out regular bulletins when the weather disturbance developed into a tropical depression.
PNR line damaged
Because of a damaged railway section, the Bicol Express will suspend its run from Naga City to Manila and vice versa starting Wednesday.
The Philippine National Railways (PNR) said the ground beneath the rails in Malaguico, Sipocot, Camarines Sur, had been eroded.
Due to bad weather, six domestic flights had been canceled as of 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, bringing to 47 the total number of deferred local flights the past two days.
Juaning had initially been expected to pass much closer to Metro Manila and schools were closed across the metropolis on Wednesday as it prepared for heavy rains.
Ramos said Juaning was following an erratic course and that the latest forecast showed Metro Manila and other densely populous areas would be spared the worst of the storm.
“It did not follow its projected track,” he said.
Juaning slightly weakened after it made landfall in Aurora on Wednesday and went through northern Luzon’s rugged terrain, according to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa).
The storm was expected to pass through Abra, Ifugao and Kalinga provinces and to exit land Wednesday night through Ilocos Sur province. It was forecast to leave the Philippine area of responsibility this afternoon.
Pagasa said rains could still be expected Thursday, although of a lesser intensity. Occasional to frequent rains were expected in northern and central Luzon Thursday morning.
Suspension of classes
The weather bureau was not recommending any suspension of classes except in areas where storm signals had been raised.
As of 5 p.m. Wednesday, Juaning was 70 kilometers northeast of Baguio City and was moving northwest at 17 km per hour. It packed maximum winds of 85 kph near the center and gusts of up to 100 kph.
By this afternoon, the storm was expected to be 240 km west northwest of Laoag, and 520 km west of Basco, Batanes province, by Friday morning.
Juaning, then packing maximum sustained winds of 95 kph, made landfall in Dinalungan, Aurora province, at about 9:30 a.m.
The storm crossed central and northern Luzon on Wednesday and dumped heavy rains that flooded northern Aurora and spawned landslides in that province.
Isolated Aurora towns
Electricity was cut off in Casiguran on Tuesday night when strong winds toppled electric posts and fallen trees hit power lines.
Alex Ocampo, the Aurora provincial administrator, said the towns of Dipaculao, Casiguran and Dilasag were isolated from central Aurora on Wednesday after landslides blocked a section of the Baler-Casiguran Road in Sitio Panindingan, Barangay Dianed, Dipaculao.
Strong winds blew off the roof of a school building in Barangay Lawang in Dilasag, he added.
Ocampo said the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council was not surprised when Juaning changed direction, and differed from the weather bureau’s earlier forecast.
“We were advised that Juaning was going to hit southern Aurora (in Dingalan) but it hit northern Aurora instead. It was fortunate that we were able to bring [information on a] severe weather [condition] to all communities on Tuesday,” Ocampo said.
Bontoc road closed
In Bontoc, Mt. Province, a section of the Baguio-Bontoc Road was closed to traffic on Wednesday after a boulder blocked the highway in Barangay Gonogon.
A disaster-response official, Raffy Alejandro, said the storm inundated seven towns of Camarines Sur in the province’s worst flooding in five years.
Flooding incidents were reported in several barangay in Daraga, Polangui, Ligao City, Oas and Legazpi City all in Albay; and in Nabua, Baao, Bato, Buhi, Pasacao, Pamplona, Iriga City and Naga City, all in Camarines Sur.
Flash floods also hit several barangays in San Francisco, Mulanay and Lopez, all in Quezon province.
Most of the 104,000 people evacuated on Tuesday in Albay returned home. Eight hundred people were still at evacuation centers in Quezon province.
Police said a family of five died in a landslide in Jose Panganiban, Camarines Norte, while one perished in a mining tunnel that collapsed in Labo town in the province.
In Quezon, Henry Buzar, a disaster coordinator, said two girls, ages 12 and 13, from Mulanay town and Lucena City, respectively, were swept away by raging rivers.
A fisherman, was found dead in a coastal village in Mogpog, Marinduque. He was one of 21 fishermen from Barangay Dalahican, Lucena, reported missing by their families but 12 had already been rescued while 8 remained missing.
In Guimaras province, an unnamed motorboat was reported to have suffered engine trouble and left at sea by its passengers who have yet to be located.
The MV Star Ferry-4, on the other hand, drifted to shallow waters in Catanduanes while the MV Maria Concepcion, with 17 passengers and crew, ran aground due to strong winds and big waves in Camarines Sur.
The Coast Guard in Bicol said the “no-sailing order” remained with 800 passengers still stranded in major ports ports across the region as of Wednesday.
Some 450 passengers remained stranded at the ports of Puerto Real and Dalahican in Quezon and in Batangas City,
Rains triggered a runoff from a hill beside the railway line in Sipocot, eroding the ground and making it unstable, said Constancio Toledano, of the PNR office in Naga City.
Line to reopen
Toledano said the PNR would close the railway line in Sipocot until Aug. 31 to allow for the building of a one-span rail bridge and prevent the ground from being eroded.
The Bicol Express will resume operations on Sept. 1, he said. With reports from Jerome Aning, Norman Bordadora and Jerry E. Esplanada in Manila; Mar Arguelles, Jonas Cables Soltes, Fernan Gianan, Juan Escandor Jr., Delfin Mallari and Maricar Cinco, Inquirer Southern Luzon; Tonette Orejas, Anselmo Roque, Armand Galang, Carmela Reyes-Estrope and Cesar Villa, Inquirer Central Luzon; Villamor Visaya Jr., Yolanda Sotelo and Desiree Caluza, Inquirer Northern Luzon; AP and AFP