With ‘Santi’ out, cleanup starts in 4 regions
A major cleanup began in four regions in Luzon on Sunday after Typhoon “Santi” roared across the center of the island on Saturday, leaving 13 people dead, entire towns in shambles and billions of pesos in damage to agriculture and infrastructure.
The cleanup went under way as the weather bureau issued a fresh storm warning for eastern Luzon.
The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) said Tropical Storm “Wipha” was spotted 1,340 kilometers east of northern Luzon, moving at 15 kilometers per hour and carrying winds of up to 150 kph and gusting up to 185 kph.
Wipha may enter the Philippine area of responsibility on Monday and if it does, it will be renamed Tropical Storm “Tino,” Pagasa forecaster Buddy Javier said.
Tino was expected to move north-northwest following the path of last week’s Typhoon “Ramil” and not directly hit any part of the Philippines, Javier said.
But the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) said authorities were not taking any chances.
“We will remain on alert and continue to take precautions,” said Reynaldo Balido, spokesman for the OCD.
Typhoon Santi (international name: Nari) left the Philippine area of responsibility before noon Sunday and headed toward Vietnam.
Santi, the 19th typhoon to hit the Philippines this year, whipped across Central Luzon on Saturday morning, uprooting trees, toppling power pylons and flooding wide swaths of the region.
Death and destruction
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said Sunday that Santi’s onslaught affected more than 220,000 people in 11 provinces in four regions of Luzon.
The council said Santi damaged 16,530 houses and displaced 43,538 people in the provinces of Nueva Ecija, Tarlac, Bulacan and Aurora.
It said 7,421 people remained in 58 evacuation centers while 36,117 others were receiving government aid outside the shelters.
As of 6 p.m. Sunday, the council said the death toll remained at 13.
Three fishermen from Viga town in Catanduanes province remained missing, the council said.
It reported five more people being injured by falling trees in Sta. Barbara village in Iba town, Zambales province.
The council said 1,923 travelers remained stranded in seven ports in Cagayan, Manila, Cebu, Camarines Sur, Sorsogon, Romblon and Occidental Mindoro.
Twenty six ferries, 16 rolling-cargo vessels and 16 motorboats remained moored at those ports, the council said.
Damage to crops, infra
Santi damaged more than P2 billion in agriculture and infrastructure in Nueva Ecija and Aurora.
Reports from the Department of Agriculture in Central Luzon said the region lost about P2.26 billion in paddy rice and P157.5 million in high-value crops.
Aurora officials said damage to crops in the province reached P43.9 million and to fisheries, P2.5 million.
The agriculture department said the typhoon damaged 245,586 hectares of rice farms and destroyed 132,437 metric tons of crops.
The biggest losses were recorded in Nueva Ecija, a major rice-producing province.
The Nueva Ecija disaster council said Santi damaged at least 160,532 ha of rice farms, representing 20 percent of the province’s rice production this season.
Arthur Yap, provincial engineer, said the typhoon damaged P265 million in infrastructure.
“Electric posts were damaged in different cities and towns, which may render most, if not the whole province, without electricity for several days,” the council said in a report.
Senior Supt. Crizaldo Nieves, Nueva Ecija police director, said policemen had joined the military, local government employees and engineering personnel to speed up the clearing of roads that were rendered impassable by toppled trees.
In Apayao province, rescue workers began the search for three missing passengers of a boat that sank in Apayao River in Bulo village, Calanasan town, reports from the OCD said.
The boat, which carried 12 people, sank at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday.
Authorities have also started work on restoring electricity to typhoon-ravaged communities, including Cabanatuan City.
But in Zambales province, fully restoring power may take some time because a seagoing vessel struck transmission lines belonging to the Zambales I Electric Cooperative Inc. (Zameco I) near San Salvador Island in Masinloc town at 2 a.m. on Saturday.
Rene Divino, Zameco I general manager, said the vessel’s owner could not be identified, but the vessel had markings that read “Toolzincom.Yan.”
Zameco I had restored power to most towns in Zambales and it was waiting for the Philippine Coast Guard to determine the damage caused by the vessel to its transmission lines.
Divino said the ship may have been anchored on Masinloc Bay, but was blown away by Santi’s powerful winds.
The misery is not yet over for residents along Pampanga River, which takes water from the region’s waterways and carries it to Manila Bay.
Benjamin Santos, head of the San Simon municipal disaster council, has advised coastal communities in his town to monitor the flow of water from Nueva Ecija.
“It may look normal now. The sun is up. But water from the mountains may still be descending,” Santos said.
On Sunday, mud and typhoon debris turned the waterways into a creamy brown, an indication that “mountain soil was eroded,” Santos said.
The Pampanga River receded on Sunday. The 200-kilometer river has its headwaters in the Caraballo Mountains and feeds a basin of over 1 million ha, a fourth of which is forest land.
“It may not be raining in Pampanga but if it rains in Nueva Ecija, water would go down to our town and also to Arayat, Candaba, Apalit, Macabebe and Masantol towns,” Santos said.
In Calumpit town in Bulacan, residents braced for more flooding.
Mayor Jessie de Jesus said the town was also anticipating water from upland rivers in Pampanga and Nueva Ecija to inundate Bulacan before flowing out to Manila Bay.
The villages of Gatbuca, Sapang Bayan, San Miguel and Meysulao were submerged under 1.8 meters of floodwater, forcing the evacuation of 138 residents on Sunday to the Gatbuca basketball court and the Calumpit sports complex, as well as a dike and a school in San Miguel village.
De Jesus said Meysulao village was submerged in floods caused by rain dumped by Typhoon “Labuyo” and by monsoon rain in August.
Water level in Angat Dam rose to 207.16 meters above sea level on Sunday, still below the spilling level of 212 masl.
Bustos Dam continued to release water to ease pressure on the reservoir. Its water level was recorded at 16.92 masl, slightly below the spilling level of 17.7 masl.
The floods receded in San Miguel town on Sunday. The Bulacan towns of Obando and Balagtas, and Malolos City remained flooded.
The regional disaster council in Central Luzon reported that 27 evacuation centers in Aurora, Bulacan, Pampanga and Zambales remained open, sheltering 4,718 people.
Floodwaters up to 1.2 meters deep persisted in 53 villages in 16 towns in Aurora, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga and Zambales.
Tribute for policeman
Also on Sunday, police officials brought to Camp Olivas, the regional police camp, the remains of PO1 Cresencio Bueno Jr., 30, who was killed when a wall of mud fell on a police patrol base in Ayala village in Magalang town, Pampanga, where he was awaiting deployment to rescue typhoon victims on Saturday.
After a short tribute, his remains would be taken to his hometown of Aguilar in Pangasinan province, said Senior Supt. Oscar Albayalde, Pampanga police director.
Clark International Airport resumed normal operations late Saturday.
Asiana Airlines, Jin Air and Cebu Pacific diverted their flights to Mactan Cebu International Airport as Santi blew across Central Luzon on Saturday, said Victor Jose Luciano, president of Clark International Airport Corp.
Luciano said a Tiger Air Philippines flight was diverted to Metro Manila.—With reports from Jeanette I. Andrade in Manila; Tonette Orejas, Anselmo Roque, Armand Galang, Carmela Reyes-Estrope and Cesar Villa, Inquirer Central Luzon; Vincent Cabreza, Inquirer Northern Luzon; and AFP
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