Tuesday, December 9, 2014
Ruby Hit's Batangas; Power Outage Feared
Millions of people in Metro Manila last night prepared for the onslaught of “Ruby,” a major typhoon that has been downgraded to a tropical storm, as it churned toward the National Capital Region (NCR) after killing at least 21 people and destroying thousands of homes on remote islands in the Visayas, and making its fourth landfall in Laiya, Batangas, at 5:45 p.m. yesterday.
The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said the winds were still capable of doing major damage to homes, and heavy rains were expected within Ruby’s 450-kilometer-wide weather front.
With Ruby’s landfall in Batangas, where big power plants are located, Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla said power outage in Metro Manila and most parts of Luzon looms.
Petilla said the threat of devastation on Batangas power plants is actually their biggest concern now, noting the immediate and serious impact to business and lives of people, especially in Metro Manila.
Officials said power plants supply 2,700 megawatts in most parts of Metro Manila and Luzon.
“Hindi pa tapos ang laban, hindi pa umaalis ang bagyo at ang binabantayan naming ay ang Batangas. Ang mga planta namin ay nasa Batangas. So the question is ano ang tatamaan sa planta namin, anong mga linya ang tatamaan (The fight is not yet over. The storm has not yet left and we are watching Batangas. So the question is, what plants will be affected, what transmission lines will be hit)?” said Petilla.
As early as yesterday, Chris Perez, PAGASA senior weather forecaster, said the effect of the storm was already felt in Metro Manila and more rains and winds will be felt at around 3 a.m. today during its closest approach to the metropolis.
In Marikina, the worst-hit area during the onslaught of tropical storm “Ondoy,” Marikina City Mayor Del de Guzman ordered the evacuation of hundreds of families and individuals living near the river and in low-lying area as part of the local government unit’s preparation. He also suspended classes in all levels today in both public and private schools in the city.
PAGASA senior weather forecaster Jori Loiz said moderate to heavy rains with gusty winds will be felt in Metro Manila as the storm makes it closest approach to the metropolis at around 10 to 11 p.m. Monday.
“Ruby” is forecast to be at 240 km west of Quezon City by Tuesday afternoon and 590 km west of Quezon City by Wednesday afternoon. By Thursday afternoon, it will be 920 km west of Quezon City.
The storm is moving very slowly that it may stay inside the Philippine area of responsibility (PAR) until Wednesday evening.
Due to the weakening of the weather disturbance, storm warning signal No. 3 has been lowered but some areas remain under signal Nos. 2 and 1.
Under signal No. 2 are Metro Manila, Batangas, Cavite, Bataan, Laguna, southern Quezon, Marinduque, northern Oriental Mindoro, and Lubang Island. These areas may experience winds of 61 to 100 kph in at least 24 hours and storm surge up to 1 meter.
Are covered by signal No. 1 are Zambales, Pampanga, Tarlac, Bulacan, Rizal, rest of Quezon, rest of Oriental Mindoro, Occidental Mindoro, and Romblon. These areas will experience winds of 30 to 60 kph in at least 36 hours.
In Metro Manila, well-drilled evacuation efforts went into full swing as forecasters warned of heavy rain from dusk.
“We are on 24-hour alert for floods and storm surges… it’s the flooding that we are worried about,” Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada told AFP.
Thousands of people, mostly the city’s poorest residents who live in shanty homes along the coast and riverbanks, crammed into schools, and other government evacuation centers across Metro Manila on Monday.
Aside from class suspension, the stock market was closed, many office and government workers were told to stay at home, and dozens of commercial flights were cancelled.
The preparations were part of a massive effort led by President Benigno Aquino to ensure minimum deaths, after 7,350 people died when super-typhoon “Yolanda” devastated large parts of the Visayas in November last year.
Millions of people in communities that were directly in the path of “Ruby” over the weekend were sent to evacuation centres or ordered to remain in their homes.
The storm, the strongest to hit the Philippines this year with wind gusts of 210 kilometers (130 miles) an hour when it made landfall, caused massive destruction in remote farming and fishing towns.
Thousands of homes were destroyed, power lines were torn down, landslides choked roads, and flood waters up to one storey high flowed through some towns.
“Ruby” claimed at least 21 lives, with 18 of those deaths on Samar island where the storm made landfall, Philippine Red Cross secretary-general Gwendolyn Pang told AFP.
Sixteen people died in Borongan, one of the main cities along Samar’s east coast that faces the Pacific Ocean and about 50 kilometers south of where “Ruby” struck, according to Pang.
She said it was impossible to say whether the death toll would climb, with full damage assessments from some areas that were hit yet to come in and the storm still travelling across the country.
Before the reports of the deaths, presidential spokeswoman Abigail Valte and other government officials expressed optimism that the intense focus on evacuations had saved many lives.
“Preemptive evacuation was carried out and warnings by authorities were taken seriously,” Valte told AFP.
In Tacloban, a city of 220,000 people that was one of the worst-hit during “Yolanda,” authorities said there were no casualties over the weekend despite fierce winds that destroyed homes.
“There is a collective sigh of relief… we were better prepared after ‘Yolanda,’” Tacloban Vice Mayor Jerry Yaokasin told AFP on Sunday.
“Ruby” was only a low pressure area when it was first spotted off the Pacific Ocean last December 1 then rapidly intensified into a tropical depression on the same day. It became a tropical storm the following day, December 2. Even before entering the PAR, “Ruby” already reached the typhoon category on December 3. On December 4, it entered the PAR and was classified as a super typhoon by US meteorologists.
“Ruby” made its first landfall at around 9:15 p.m. on December 6 over Dolores, Eastern Samar, then a second landfall at about 10 a.m. on December 7 over Cataingan, Masbate; and a third landfall in Torrijos, Marinduque, at around 11 a.m. to 12 noon yesterday.
Mayor Estrada said more than 5,000 residents of Basaco compound in Manila have been evacuated due to possible storm surges.
“We’ve prepared and trained for this,” Estrada told The Associated Press, adding his greatest fear was widespread flooding. Metro Manila has a population of more than 12 million people.
Like villagers in the Visayas, Estrada said Manila residents were readily moving to safety because of troublesome memories of Yolanda’s devastation last year.
Two people, including a baby girl, died of hypothermia in central Iloilo province Saturday at the height of the typhoon, National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) chief Alexander Pama told a news conference. Another person died after being hit by a falling tree in Dolores, Eastern Samar, where the typhoon first made landfall, according to Interior Secretary Mar Roxas.
Displaced villagers were asked to return home from emergency shelters in provinces where the danger posed by the typhoon had waned, including Albay, where more than half a million people were advised to leave evacuation sites.
Nearly 12,000 villagers, however, will remain in government shelters in Albay because their homes lie near a restive volcano.
While officials expressed relief that the typhoon had not caused major damage, they warned that “Ruby” was still on course to cross two major islands in the Visayas before starting to blow away Tuesday into the South China Sea.
Several typhoon-lashed eastern villages isolated by downed telephone and power lines were out of contact, Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman said.
Army troops deployed to supermarkets and major roads in provinces in the typhoon’s path to prevent looting and chaos and clear debris, all of which slowed the government’s response to “Yolanda” last year.
While “Ruby” has already left the Visayas, parts of Eastern Visayas and Quezon province are still without power, the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) said yesterday.
Portions of the provinces of Quezon, Samar, Northern Samar, Eastern Samar, Sorsogon, Leyte and Iloilo, still have brownouts, according to NGCP’s 11 a.m. update.
In Quezon, still suffering brownout is Atimonan, while the entire Samar province is still disconnected to the grid.
Northern Samar municipalities without power are Allen, Victoria, San Isidro, Lavezares, Catubig, Gamas, Lao-ang, Pambuhan, Palapag, Las Navas, Bobon, Catarman, Mondragon, San Roque, Rosario, San Jose, and Lope de Vega.
Power outages in Eastern Samar are in Sulat, Taft, Canavid, Dolores, Oras, San Policarpo, Arteche, Jipapad, Maslog, Borongan, San Julian, Maydolong, Llorente, Salcedo, Guiuan, MacArthur, Hernani, Quinapundan, Giporlos, Balangiga, and Lawaan.
The Sorsogon municipalities without power are Sogod, Bontoc, Libagon, Silago, Lio-an, St. Bernard, San Juan, Anahawan, Hinundayan, Hinunangan, San Francisco, Pintuyan and San Ricardo
For Leyte, the areas without power are Tunga, Macarthur, Abuyog, Mahaplag, Mayorga, Javier, Hilongos, Bato, Hindang, Inopacan, Matalom, Baybay, Ormoc City, Albuera, Merida, Kananga, Isabel, Merida, Palompon, Baybay, Albuera, Merida, and Kananga.
Moreover, the municipality of San Joaquin, Iloilo is still without power.
On the other hand, towns without electricity in Antique are Hamtic, Sibalom, Anini-y and San Jose.
Power, however, has been restored in the entire Capiz province and parts of Quezon, Sorsogon, Leyte, Iloilo, and Bohol provinces.
The power connection between Luzon and Visayas – the Leyte-Luzon 350 kv high voltage direct current link – was not affected by the typhoon.
Meanwhile, Ruby’s damage on agriculture rose to P1.02 billion yesterday afternoon based on the latest data by the Department of Agriculture (DA).
Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said typhoon Ruby’s damage on agriculture is not expected to be as severe as what the sector had experienced during the onslaught of “Yolanda” last year.
Agricultural damage caused by Yolanda was estimated at P31 billion.
On government infrastructure, roads in Bicol and Eastern Visayas were not spared by Ruby’s wrath.
The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) has already mobilized its personnel to assess the damage and they found 22 road sections having been rendered impassable.
Of this number, 15 roads were closed to traffic in Masbate; Samar, Leyte, and Biliran in Eastern Visayas; while the rest were “hardly passable,” according to the DPWH’s Bureau of Maintenance yesterday.
As this developed, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) issued yesterday a notice to airmen (Notam) allowing commercial aircraft (turbo propeller aircraft only) to operate at Tacloban Airport, cancelling the Notam C047/14 issued earlier in the day.
CAAP said that all 41 airports are now open for commercial operations but landing and take offs are still subject to prevailing aerodrome weather conditions.
The Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific, Air Asia Zest, and other commercial airline operators were advised on the latest updates.
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