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PH braces for a Category 5 storm

Screen grab from http://noah.dost.gov.ph/ as of 03:00am, November 8, 2013

More than 12 million people are at risk from Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan), which was generating gusts of up to 260 kilometers per hour (kph) as it moved closer to the Philippines on Thursday, according to authorities.

“The most powerful tropical cyclone of 2013 anywhere on Earth is raging toward the Philippines,” the US-based The Weather Channel reported Wednesday at 5:16 p.m. EST (6 a.m. Thursday Philippine time).

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It is classified in the United States as a Category 5 storm, with wind speed of at least 252 kph.

Yolanda will make landfall between 9 and 10 a.m. Friday in Guiuan, Eastern Samar, or Abuyog, Leyte.

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It will then cross the provinces of Leyte, Biliran, the northern tip of Cebu, Iloilo, Capiz, Aklan, Romblon, Semirara Island, the southern part of Mindoro and Busuanga, before leaving the Philippine landmass by Saturday afternoon, the weather bureau said.

On Thursday night, President Aquino called for cooperation and bayanihan as the nation braced for Yolanda.

“Let this speech serve as a warning to all our LGUs (local government units): ‘Your constituents face a grave danger.’ Let’s do everything we can do while Yolanda has yet to make a landfall. Let me say this again: ‘This is a serious threat, and we could only lessen the typhoon’s effects if we would make use of information on preparedness,’” Aquino said in a televised speech.

He said Yolanda could trigger storm surges that could reach 5 to 6 meters, asking residents of coastal communities in eastern Visayas,

Bicol and other Visayan provinces to evacuate as soon as possible.

He also discouraged the public from hoarding basic commodities.

“The effects of this typhoon will be minimized if we will help each other. Let’s all display restraint, particularly in buying basic commodities, and in relocating to safer areas,” said the President.

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“Let’s get in touch with and follow [the advice of the] authorities. Let’s evacuate if we know that our community is within a hazard area. To those in coastal areas: Let’s not venture out into the open sea. Don’t risk it so that the lives of rescuers won’t be put in danger,” he said.

On orders of Aquino, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Interior Secretary Mar Roxas flew on Thursday to Leyte to lead preparations for Yolanda’s landfall.

‘Very dangerous’

Weather forecaster Glaiza Escullar said Yolanda was a very dangerous typhoon.

“There are not too many mountains on its path to deflect the force of impact, making it more dangerous,” Escullar said.

Yolanda, described by forecasters to be almost the size of the Visayas, can generate waves of up to 7 meters in coastal waters along its path.

As of 8 Thursday night, the typhoon was bearing down on southeast of Guiuan, Eastern Samar. It was moving west-northwest at 39 kph, said the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa).

The Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System, jointly run by the United Nations and the European Commission, said nearly 16 million people, including more than 12 million in the Philippines, were at risk from the typhoon.

The others were in Laos and Vietnam, which are forecast to be hit on Sunday, it said on its website.

“Haiyan (Yolanda) can have a high humanitarian impact,” it said.

Metro Manila

Pagasa said Metro Manila was expected to start feeling the effects of the 600-km diameter typhoon—light to moderate rains and gusty winds—by Friday evening.

Senior weather forecaster Jori Loiz said Storm Signal No. 4 had been raised over Samar, Eastern Samar, Leyte, Southern Leyte and Biliran Island, where winds of more than 185 kph were expected to prevail in at least 12 hours.

In areas where Signal No. 4 is raised, damage to affected communities can be very heavy, and all travel and outdoor activities should be canceled, Pagasa said.

“Evacuation to much safer shelters should have been completed earlier since it may be too late under this situation,” it added.

‘Beyond torrential’

Loiz said the typhoon would dump 30 to 50 millimeters of rain per hour on areas in its path. This means that a square-meter container will have collected 30 to 50 liters of water after an hour of rain. A millimeter of water equals a liter of water on a square meter.

“That is beyond torrential levels,” he told the Inquirer, adding that the typhoon is moving very fast but has not changed track since its approach to the Philippine area of responsibility.

“It will bring both strong winds and torrential rains in areas of southern Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao. But in Metro Manila, the typhoon’s outer cloud bands would bring light to moderate rains and gusty winds,” Loiz said.

Pagasa raised Signal No. 1 in Metro Manila at 8 Thursday night.

The President addressed the nation after meeting with officials of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), Pagasa and Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB).

“We all know that Yolanda has entered our area of responsibility,” Aquino said, explaining that he decided to address the nation like what he did at the height of the onslaught of Typhoon “Pablo” in 2012.

“I decided to speak before you so that you’ll be aware of how serious the danger that our countrymen will face in the coming days, and to call for bayanihan and cooperation,” he said.

Aquino said Storm Signal No. 4 had been raised because of the sheer strength and size of the typhoon besides its wind’s gustiness.

According to him, Yolanda will hit the provinces of Samar and Leyte midnight Thursday, and move to Masbate, Cebu, Panay, Romblon, Mindoro and Palawan.

Flooding, lahar, surge

“Besides the wind and rain [that Yolanda is expected to bring], we’re also monitoring flooding from rivers, the possibility of the onslaught of lahar flow in areas close to Mt. Mayon and Mt. Bulusan, and the threat of storm surge in over a hundred places,” the President said.

He talked of the danger of storm surge in Ormoc, Leyte, Guinayangan, Ragay Gulf, Quezon and Lamon Bay in Atimonan, Quezon.

Aquino said all the disaster risk reduction and management councils—from the national to regional and municipal and city levels—had been activated as early as Wednesday.

Pagasa, MGB websites

“Of course, we expect the cooperation of the people, so that (the councils) can do their job … and better prepare for Yolanda,” Aquino said, enjoining the public to go to the websites of Pagasa, MGB and “Project NOAH” to obtain information pertinent to individual communities.

He described the armed forces and other law enforcement agencies as “fully mission capable,” citing the availability of three C-130 transport ships, 32 planes and helicopters of the Air Force, 20 ships of the Philippine Navy which have been deployed to Cebu, Bicol, Cavite and Zamboanga.

The relief goods have been preprepositioned in areas that will be directly hit by the typhoon, he said.—With reports from Frances Mangosing, Inquirer.net; AFP

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