Thousands flee ‘Urduja’s’ wrath
Tens of thousands of families were driven from their homes by floods and landslides in 322 barangays in the Eastern Visayas and Caraga regions as Tropical Storm “Urduja” (international name: Kai-tak) barreled westward across Samar Island on Saturday.
Five hours after making landfall at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday in the vicinity of San Policarpo, Eastern Samar, Urduja increased speed to 15 kilometers per hour and packed maximum sustained winds of 80 kph while slicing through the town of San Jose de Buan.
At least four people were killed in landslides in Biliran and Ormoc City and four others, including three fishermen in Samar, remained missing, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).
Ferry and air transport services remained suspended in Eastern and Central Visayas, and disaster relief officials issued warnings of more flooding and storm surges as Urduja headed for Central Visayas.
Some 1,000 families from 15 coastal villages in Daanbantayan, Cebu, were asked to vacate their homes under threat from huge waves.
According to the NDRRMC operations center in Camp Aguinaldo, a total of 8,832 families, made up of 38,850 people, were moved to evacuation centers on Friday in Eastern Samar, Northern Samar, Western Samar, Leyte, Southern Leyte, Dinagat Islands and Surigao del Norte.
The evacuees were part of the 158,166 people from 35,021 families displaced by floods in the Eastern Visayas and Caraga regions.
A total of 11,101 passengers, as well as 1,322 rolling cargoes, 52 vessels and 33 motorized boats, were stranded in the seaports of Calabarzon, Mimaropa, the Bicol region, Western and Eastern Visayas, and Metro Manila, officials said.
Nearly 30 areas in the country were placed under storm signals by the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) which expected Urduja to bring more rains and pack stronger winds in the next three days.
Pagasa weather specialists said Urduja would leave the Philippine area of responsibility (PAR) as early as Tuesday evening. Unfortunately, Urduja may not be the last tropical cyclone for the month or the year.
At 5 p.m. on Saturday, a low pressure area (LPA) was located 2,180 km east of South Cotabato and could enter the PAR on Wednesday, according to weather specialist Samuel Duran.
In a later briefing, the Pagasa’s Aldczar Aurelio said that the LPA would be named “Vinta” should it intensify into a tropical cyclone.
The Pagasa warned of continued scattered to widespread moderate to heavy rains, which may cause floodings and landslides, over the Bicol region, the Visayas, southern Quezon, Batangas, Cavite, Laguna, Mindoro provinces, Marinduque and Romblon.
Sea travel was still discouraged over the country’s eastern seaboards from Bicol to the tip of Mindanao and in both seaboards in Central Visayas.
By 5 p.m. on Saturday, only areas in southern Luzon and the Visayas remained under storm signal.
Under signal No. 2 were Sorsogon and Masbate, including Ticao Islands, and Romblon, northern Samar, the northern part of Eastern Samar, the northern part of Samar, Biliran, Antique, Aklan, Capiz and northern Iloilo.
Signal No. 1 was hoisted over southern Quezon, Marinduque, the southern parts of Occidental and Oriental Mindoro, Catanduanes, Camarines Sur, Albay, Burias Island, northern Palawan, Cuyo Island, Calamian Group of Islands, Iloilo, the rest of Samar, the rest of Eastern Samar, Guimaras, Negros Occidental, the northern part of Negros Oriental, northern Cebu and Leyte.
The NDRRMC identified the four fatalities as Winnie Garbo, 55, Maribeth Garbo, 52, Wilma Garbo, 12, and Jimmy Jorge, 2. They were killed in a landslide in Sitio Barobohan, Barangay Iyusan, Almeria town in Biliran.
Rescuers were still searching for Juanita Montellana Cabillo, who was believed to have been buried alive when a landslide destroyed her house in Barangay Tongonan, Ormoc City.
Cabillo’s husband, Nelson, survived after his brother-in-law and his two sons pulled him out of a huge mound of earth that had covered him from the neck down.
Leyte Gov. Dominico Petilla placed the province under a state of calamity as floods inundated 60 percent of the 138 villages in Tacloban City alone.
More than 2,000 families in Tacloban and another 300 in Ormoc City were moved to evacuation centers as floodwaters rose to at least waist-deep, said Lutgarda Barredo, chief of the Tacloban Rescue Team Unit.
A baby girl and a woman, both unidentified, were also injured in the city, the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO) reported.
In Samar, some 5,000 families from 18 towns were evacuated to safer ground while massive landslides blocked the national highway at Barangay Laygayon in Pinabacdao town and at Barangay Tarabucan in Calbayog City, said Van Torrevillas of the the province’s PDRRMO.
Another 2,024 families living in coastal villages were evacuated because of the threat of storm surges and flooding, said Brig. Gen. Mario Lacurom, commanding officer of the Army’s 803rd Infantry Brigade based in Catarman town.
Samar and Leyte, with a combined population of about 4.5 million, had borne the brunt of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan) four years ago that left more than 7,350 people dead or missing.
But the heavy rains unleashed by Urduja did not prevent Catholics in Southern Luzon and the Visayas from attending the first Mass of the nine-day “Simbang Gabi” on Saturday.
“The rains were nonstop but this did not stop people from hearing Mass,” Fr. Jenious Mansalay, social action director of the Diocese of Mabate, said over Church-run Radio Veritas.
Fr. Alcris Badana, of the Diocese of Palo, noted that the turnout for the Mass was smaller than last year’s.
“There were many churchgoers who attended the Simbang Gabi but their number was smaller because of the rains and floods,” Badana said. —WITH REPORTS FROM JOEY A. GABIETA, ROBERT DEJON, MA. APRIL MIER, REY ANTHONY, MICHAEL JAUCIAN, MADONNA VIROLA, JULIE M. AURELIO AND AFP
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