Public warned fiercer storms to batter Philippines
As supertyphoon “Mina” closed the month of August with a death toll of 15 in its deadly onslaught across northern Luzon over the weekend, the weather office on Monday warned that storms with similar intensity could whip the country in the so-called “ber” months.
Nathaniel Servando, administrator of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa), said the country had entered a period of more potent storms forming in the Pacific.
Servando said fierce typhoons were expected to make a landfall in September, October, November and December.
“Starting September to the last quarter of the year, we expect stronger land-falling typhoons,” Servando said in an interview.
Servando noted that the Intertropical Convergence Zone, the area near the equator where winds from the north and south meet and oscillate, would be moving downward to the southern hemisphere in these months.
He said this would create a breeding ground for more violent storms.
Mina (international name: Nanmadol) was the strongest to enter the country this year, compelling Pagasa to raise Storm Signal No. 4 in provinces in its path last weekend. At one point, it had maximum sustained winds of 195 kilometers per hour that were gusting at 230 kph.
As it moved away from the Philippines and headed to Taiwan and the coast of China, Mina further weakened and slowed down.
In its bulletin on Monday, Pagasa said the storm was 340 km northwest of Basco, Batanes province, as of 4 p.m. with gusts of 120 kph and was moving northwest at 7 kph.
By Tuesday, the storm is expected to be 520 km northwest of Batanes, the weather agency said.
Huge crop damage
The National Food Administration (NFA) said Mina came at the worst possible time.
“The palay (unhusked rice) was already growing high and ready to be harvested by September or October,” NFA Administrator Angelito Banayo said.
The Department of Agriculture’s Central Action Center said reports from Cagayan, Isabela and Nueva Vizcaya provinces put total rice losses at P1 billion and corn losses at P663 million.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development reported that Mina displaced 221,061 people. The DSWD said the government had released more than P4 million to help families affected by the typhoon.
In northern Luzon, the number of fatalities left by Mina climbed as more landslide, drowning and electrocution victims were found by rescue workers and residents on Sunday and Monday, reports gathered by the Inquirer showed.
As of Monday, the death toll reached 14, with Baguio City recording the highest number at seven. Five of the victims in Baguio died when a section of a dump collapsed and buried a mountainside community on Asin Road. (A fisherman drowned off the coast of Catanduanes province on Saturday.)
Three drowning victims were reported in Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur and Abra provinces while two children died in a landslide in San Fabian, Pangasinan province. A 15-year-old boy was electrocuted in Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya province, while a man died after a tree fell on him in Bangar, La Union province.
In Baguio, reports from the City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (CDRRMC) said two more persons died from injuries they sustained when a section of the Irisan dump was washed out by heavy rains on Saturday.
Frando Flores, 16, died on Monday at Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center, where he was being treated after he was revived by rescue workers who pulled him out of the debris. He was the third member of the Flores family to die due to the trash slide.
The Office of Civil Defense (OCD) in the Cordillera said rescue workers also dug up the body of Noemi Cael, 20, who was reported missing on Sunday when rescuers found her 18-year-old brother, Jefonie Leon Cael.
In Abra, rescue workers said Dindo Candido, 28, a resident of Villaviciosa town, drowned at the height of Typhoon Mina.
In Cagayan Valley, officials of the Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (RDRRMC) reported no fatality despite the electrocution of Mark Joven Navarro, 15, in Bayombong.
Chief Insp. Warlito Jagto, Bayombong police chief, said Navarro was found dead by the owner of a swine farm on Sunday in Barangay La Torre in Bayombong.
“The victim was believed to have been trying to get electrical wire that supplied power to a nearby piggery,” Jagto said, citing a roll of wire that wrapped the victim’s body. A pair of pliers was found in his hand.
On Saturday, the victim’s parents reported their son as missing. But the RDRRMC would not count Navarro as a typhoon-related casualty.
“That’s carelessness. We cannot just count it as casualty just because one died on a day a typhoon happened,” said Milagros Talosig, regional action officer of the RDRRMC.
The Cagayan Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (PDRRMC) said the province lost P882 million worth of crops and fish. Damage to roads, bridges and irrigation facilities was pegged at P21.3 million.
More than 500 houses were damaged in Iguig, Santa Teresita, Baggao and Amulung towns, said Edna Junio, provincial social welfare officer.
In the town of Gonzaga, which took a direct hit from the typhoon, Mayor Carlito Pentecostes Jr. placed the damage to rice crops at least P68.5 million and to corn at P19 million.
Swirling wind and raging floodwaters also destroyed irrigation canals in the town, he said.
In Ilocos Norte province, PDRRMC reports said the province lost P45 million worth of palay and other crops, while damage to public infrastructure was pegged at more than P110 million.
Gov. Imee Marcos went to Batac City and Paoay town on Monday to assess the damage.
In Barangay Masintoc in Paoay, 11 houses were damaged when whirlwinds swept through the village. Five houses in Barangay Rayuray in Batac City were also damaged.
“We are puzzled with the number of mini tornados that struck the province as a result of Typhoon Mina. We need to know what caused these so our people can prepare when another typhoon comes,” Marcos said.
On Saturday, tornados destroyed houses and uprooted trees in Sarrat and Laoag City.
Marcos said residents were caught unprepared after Pagasa initially reported that Mina would not cross Ilocos Norte.
“But it was not entirely Pagasa’s fault because Mina was sucked in by the southwest monsoon and compounded by monsoon rains and high tide that brought so much rain,” she said.
Heavy flooding was reported in 16 towns, including Laoag and Batac cities, prompting the provincial board to declare a state of calamity on Sunday.
Veggie prices up
In Benguet province, prices of vegetables increased by as much as 30 percent due to low supply after landslides blocked roads leading to the farms, said La Trinidad Mayor Gregorio Abalos Jr.
These farms provide Metro Manila’s daily supply of salad vegetables.
Citing Monday’s trading post records, Abalos said cabbage was sold for P25.26 a kilogram, while broccoli was sold for P15.25 a kg.
He said onion leeks went by as much as P80 a kg; celery, P40.45 a kg; Baguio beans, P7 a kg; sweet peas, P100 a kg; and potatoes, P17.22 a kg.
Sections of Halsema Highway, which links vegetable farms in Benguet and Mt. Province, were closed on Saturday and Sunday. Traders have been transporting vegetables using porters, who cross through landslides to reach vegetable trucks headed for La Trinidad.
Landslides blocked several roads in Mt. Province, Apayao and Kalinga provinces.
Kennon Road, the shortest route to Baguio City, remained closed on Monday due to occasional rock slides.
The region experienced strong rains on Monday, causing the landslides, the OCD said.
The rains that fell at 8 a.m. on Monday had raised the water levels of Ambuklao Dam to 751.18 meters above sea level, prompting its operator to open four gates to release water. Ambuklao’s spilling level is 752 masl.
Neighboring Binga Dam had 568.92 masl in its reservoir, leading operators to open four gates. Its spilling level is 575 masl.
In Pangasinan province, high tide worsened the flooding in Dagupan City, where 10 villages went under less than a meter of water on Monday.
Floodwaters from adjoining towns flow to this city before draining into the Lingayen Gulf.
Avenix Arenas, spokesperson of the PDRRMC in Pangasinan, said the water level at the San Roque Dam on Monday was 265.86 masl. Arenas said the PDRRMC would start releasing water when the level reached 280 masl.
In San Fabian town, residents of Barangay Binday along the Bued River left the village on Saturday as heavy current started sweeping away houses and farms there.
But this was not new to residents of Barangay Binday as the river has been eroding its banks since the 1970s.
In La Union, provincial agriculturist Imelda Sannadan said more than 2,000 hectares of rice fields in the province were submerged by floodwaters. The farms are in the towns of Burgos, Santol, Pugo, Tubao, Bacnotan, Balaoan, Bangar, Luna and San Juan.
Ranny Ipac, head of PDRRMC in La Union, said flooding was reported in coastal and riverside towns of Agoo, Sto. Tomas, Tubao, Bauang and Aringay.
A bridge connecting Agoo and Tubao towns was closed to traffic after a river there overflowed. Reports from Leila B. Salaverria in Manila; Vincent Cabreza, Melvin Gascon, Cristina Arzadon, Yolanda Sotelo, Marla Viray and Charles Keith, Inquirer Northern Luzon
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