Typhoon Melor: Close to a million in the Philippines evacuate

Typhoon Melor: Close to a million in the Philippines evacuate
A young evacuee wades through flooded school grounds while others look on from a school building being used as an evacuation centre in the city of Legaspi in Albay province, south of Manila on December 14, 2015, as typhoon Melor approaches the city.
PHOTO: AFP

CLOSE to a million people in the Bicol region and Eastern Visayas were moved to evacuation centres before Typhoon "Nona" (international name: Melor) made landfall over Northern Samar province on Monday noon and caused power outages in the two regions.

Electricity was down in the whole of the provinces of Sorsogon, Masbate and Catanduanes, and parts of Albay, Camarines Sur and Camarines Norte provinces when the typhoon made its second landfall in Sorsogon at 4 p.m.

An unidentified fisherman from Mapanas town in Northern Samar was reported missing.

In Tabaco City, Albay, a 45-year-old man was electrocuted at noon Monday while taking down a billboard of a beauty salon on Ziga Avenue at the height of the massive preparations for Nona.

The weather bureau has warned the public to prepare for heavy to intense rainfall from the typhoon, especially within its 300-kilometer diameter, as well as flash floods, landslides and storm surges of up to 4 meters in areas where storm signals have been raised.

Nona may also trigger pyroclastic flows in areas near Mayon Volcano, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).

With maximum sustained winds of 150 kilometers per hour near the centre and gusts of up to 185 kph, Nona made its first landfall over Batag island in Northern Samar.

Second landfall

Moving west at 17 kph, the typhoon made its second landfall in Sorsogon province between the towns of Matnog and Sta. Magdalena about 4 p.m. on Monday, according to the Sorsogon Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (PDRRMC).

The Sorsogon PDRRMC chief, Raden Dimaan, said the typhoon would pass by the town of Bulan as it moved westward to Ticao Pass, citing a report from the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa).

Compact typhoon

"Melor is a very compact typhoon, so that will prevent its most devastating impacts from extending too far from its centre," said AccuWeather meteorologist Adam Douty.

He said the typhoon had weakened a little as it encountered drier air early on Monday. "While Melor will not slam onshore as a super typhoon as once feared, it still poses dangers to lives and property," Douty said.

On Tuesday, Nona will continue to cross Marinduque, Romblon and Mindoro provinces, according to Pagasa.

According to Pagasa forecaster, Chris Perez, the typhoon will weaken into a tropical storm by the time it exits land from Mindoro into the West Philippine Sea on Tuesday night.

But even if the eye of the typhoon had gone to sea, Perez said the typhoon would continue to affect Southern Luzon until Wednesday.

The storm will skirt Palawan on Thursday before it leaves the Philippine area of responsibility by Friday.

About 20 provinces, some around Manila, are under public storm alert due to strong winds and torrential rains of up to 300 mm (12 inches).

Classes, flights suspended

Classes were suspended on Monday in eight provinces, including Samar, Northern Samar; including Tacloban City.

Forty-six domestic flights at Ninoy Aquino International Airport were cancelled.

As of Monday noon, private and government offices and most commercial establishments in Legazpi City and the other towns and cities in Albay and Sorsogon were closed.

Christmas trees and other decorations that adorned Legazpi City's Peñaranda Park have been dismantled.

The NDRRMC said 724,839 persons were evacuated from their homes over the weekend as the typhoon approached. Albay had the biggest number of evacuees at 133,905 families or 589,235 persons.

As of Monday afternoon, 29,015 families, or 148,223 people, were in evacuation centres in the towns of Bulan, Bulusan, Magallanes, Prieto Diaz and Sta. Magdalena, said Ariel Doctoma of the Sorsogon PDRRMC.

A total of 137 families, or 734 people, were evacuated in Northern Samar.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development has prepositioned P25,034,400 in standby funds, 263,223 family food packs and P185,670,882 in food and nonfood items in Southern Luzon and the Visayas.

The Department of Health is on Code White Alert and has prepositioned P1.2 million in medicines and equipment in affected areas, while P80,099,963 worth of medicines are available at its central office.

Stranded

Close to 8,000 passengers, 62 vessels, 11 motor bancas and 552 rolling cargoes were stranded due to rough seas, according to the NDRRMC.

At least 2,387 passengers were stranded in ports in Western and Eastern Visayas as of Monday noon.

Local government units in Northern and Eastern Samar provinces implemented preemptive evacuations involving 1,200 families or 7,736 individuals.

Mayoni said a power outage hit Eastern Samar.

Power supply in Eastern Samar was also cut, said Jojo Abrugar, PDRRMC executive officer.

Samar Electric Cooperative (Samelco 1) was forced to shut down its substations at noon on Monday resulting in a power outage in Calbayog City and neighbouring municipalities.

Samelco 1 officials said they decided to implement the shutdown due to strong winds.

The National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) reported that the power interruption affected Calbayog City and the towns of Sta. Margarita, Gandara, San Jorge, Tarangan, Pasanjan and Matuguinao. NGCP said in an advisory issued on Monday noon that the 69-KV Gandara feeder was isolated.

Municipal governments in coastal towns of Samar province went on alert for possible flooding, said disaster management officer Van Torrevillas.

In Tacloban City, Mayor Alfred Romualdez ordered the suspension of classes in the elementary and secondary levels.

In Ormoc City, classes and trips of boats to and from Cebu City were also suspended.

Trips of ships and boats in Iloilo to northern areas of the country, including Batangas, Northern Cebu and Manila were likewise suspended, according to Lt. Senior Grade Jomark Angue.

Interior Secretary Mel Senen Sarmiento said he had contacted local chief executives and other agencies on the preparations for the onslaught of Nona.

He said his department had contacted municipal officials and informed them of the possible height of the storm surges based on the models of Pagasa.

"It is better that we are prepared because the typhoon's movement is unpredictable. We need everyone's co-operation," Sarmiento said.

Based on the risk analysis of the Sorsogon PDRRMC, 112 barangays were vulnerable to storm surge in the towns of Barcelona, Bulusan, Gubat, Matnog, Prieto Diaz, Sta. Magdalena and Sorsogon City with 26,972 families, or 134,870 individuals, to be affected.

A total of 211 barangays with a population of 332,593 were vulnerable to flooding. Prone to landslides were 141 barangays with 143,624 residents.

Sorsogon Gov. Raul Lee, PDRRMC chair, said food had been distributed to evacuees.

In Albay, the Albay Public Safety and Emergency Management Office (Apsemo) had evacuated 346,944 persons by noon on Monday.

The first to be evacuated were those residing in coastal and low-lying villages in the towns of Daraga, Guinobatan, Tiwi, Oas, Libon, Sto Domingo, Manito and Polangui.

Albay Gov. Joey Salceda said that once Nona hit Sorsogon, it would be felt in Albay. "Almost 80 per cent of Albay will feel the landfall," he said.

Massive evacuation was done practically in all towns and cities of Albay, said Apsemo head Cedric Daep, as the province aimed for a zero casualty goal.

Bernardo Alejandro, Office of Civil Defence, said that aside from Albay and Sorsogon, evacuation was also being implemented in the Camarines provinces.

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