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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Ruby Pummels Eastern Samar

Typhoon “Ruby”  made a landfall at 9:15 last night in Dolores, Eastern Samar, unleashing its ferocious 175 kph winds and gusts of up to 210 kph, dumping heavy rains, and threatening more devastation to areas yet to recover from a super-typhoon “Yolanda” that killed thousands a year ago.
While “Ruby” (international name “Hagupit”) has weakened a notch below super-typhoon category, it could still unleash huge destruction with torrential rains and potentially disastrous storm surges of up to 4.5 meters of 15 feet.
The fear of a destructive onslaught triggered mass evacuations, one of the largest ever seen in peacetime.
The government said more than 600,000 people in coastal areas were in evacuation centers, and many others were expected to pour in as the slow-moving “Ruby” was expected to make four more landfalls today – between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. in Masbate; between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. on Sibuyan Island; between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. in Romblon, Romblon; and between 8 p.m. on Tablas Island.
The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction in Geneva said 200,000 people had been evacuated in Cebu alone.
‘“Ruby’ is triggering one of the largest evacuations we have ever seen in peacetime, said spokesman Denis McClean.
“Ruby” is forecast to be 50 km east of Romblon, Romblon today.
Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) weather forecaster Jori Loiz said once “Ruby” reaches the areas of Marinduque and Mindoro, the typhoon’s outer spiral will affect Metro Manila.
Loiz expects signal No. 2 or 1 to be raised for Metro Manila by Sunday evening or Monday.
By Monday morning, it is expected to be 225 km west northwest of Calapan City, Oriental Mindoro, or 200 km west of Ambulong, Batangas.
It is projected to be 480 km west of Iba, Zambales, by Tuesday morning and out of the Philippine area of responsibility by evening.
Its rains and winds could impact 50 million people, or half the nation’s population, Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman told AFP. 

As of last night, storm signals were up in over 30 areas.
Placed under storm signal No. 3 were: Catanduanes, Albay, Sorsogon, Masbate, Ticao Island, Northern Samar, Eastern Samar, Samar, and Biliran.
Areas under signal No. 2 are: Camarines Sur, Burias Island, Romblon, Capiz, Northern Cebu, Cebu City, Bantayan Island, Camotes Island, Leyte, Southern Leyte, and Dinagat Province.
PAGASA likewise hoisted signal No. 1 in: Southern Quezon, Camarines Norte, Marinduque, Batangas, Occidental Mindoro, Oriental Mindoro, Antique, Aklan, Iloilo, Guimaras, Northern Negros, rest of Cebu, Bohol, Surigao del Norte, and Siargao Island
“I am afraid and scared,” said Teresita Aban, a 58-year-old housewife from Sta. Rita, in Samar province, wiping away tears and trembling as she spoke. “We’re prepared but still fearful, we haven’t finished repairing our house, it still has tarpaulin patches and here comes another storm.”
In Tacloban, one of the cities worst-hit by Yolanda’s monster winds and tsunami-like storm surges, thousands of people yesterday crammed into schools, churches, and other evacuation centers.
“We are afraid. People are panicking,” Alma Gaut, 36, whose house was destroyed and mother died during “Yolanda,” told AFP as she huddled in the second floor of a university with more than 1,000 other people.
“All we have is a tattered, plastic sheet to sleep on. My grandmother is already feeling the cold.”
Outside, the town appeared almost deserted as rain began to fall and trees bent with the wind in what residents feared was an ominous prelude to another bout of ferocious weather.
“We’re on red alert so the entire Armed Forces is being mobilized for this typhoon,” Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang, head of the 120,000-strong military, told a news conference after discussing last-minute preparations.
Army troops were 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 last year, Catapang said. 

In Catbalogan, the capital of neighboring Samar province, authorities were preparing for water surges more than one-story high.
More than 10,000 people had been ordered into safe buildings, according to Mayor Stephany Uy Tan.
“We don’t want people to panic but I ordered forced evacuations so they would be safe,” the mayor told AFP by phone.
“There are always some people who say the wind is not yet that strong, that there is still no rain… we just have to explain that there is a huge possibility of a storm surge.”
About 25,000 people in Eastern Samar and Leyte still live in tents, shelters, and bunkhouses more than a year after “Yolanda.”
In the eastern region of Bicol alone, authorities said they were aiming for 2.5 million people – half the local population – to be in evacuation centers by Saturday night.
In Eastern Samar, the painful lessons from “Yolanda” are visible in the preparations for “Ruby” as local authorities push for 100 percent compliance in the evacuation of almost 200,000 people living in coastal areas of the province.
Of the 43,797 families, or 199,755 people, that need to be evacuated in the entire province, a total of 43,132 families have already been moved to safer grounds as of 3 p.m. yesterday.
Among the first towns that evacuated all the people in danger zones is San Julian. The town has 2,168 families, or 8,668 people, living in coastal areas and these people are already staying in various evacuation centers here.
“Almost all of the municipalities have already accomplished 100 percent evacuation in their respective areas,” Levi Nicart, head of the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).
Nicart said they hope to move the rest of the 600 families to the evacuation centers and other safer grounds before ‘Ruby’ made a landfall by 8 p.m. yesterday.
Leading the forced evacuation are soldiers and policemen who have a strict order to bodily take everyone from coastal areas in the soonest possible time.
Senior Supt. Alan Cuevillas, director of the Eastern Samar Provincial Police Office, said he had issued a memorandum to all his commanders to ensure full attendance of his men for search, rescue and relief distribution mission as early as Wednesday.
“We have actually divided our personnel in teams wherein each teams have specific tasks to do, and these tasks include worse-case scenarios,” said Cuevillas. 

Aside from manpower, Cuevillas said they have already secured all their vehicles and other assets in safe grounds, ready to be deployed as soon as the weather disturbance has passed by.
Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone said all the needed equipment for road clearing operations have already been prepositioned in key areas of the province, especially those in landslide-prone areas.
Operators of the heavy equipment like payloaders have already been pu ton standby and ready to be deployed in areas where they are needed most, said Eastern Samar Gov. Conrado Nicart.
During “Yolanda,” it was recalled that no heavy equipment and other materials were available particularly in road clearing and collection of debris and cadavers.
The affected areas have to wait for equipment as far as Manila before the full-blown clearing operations had started.
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