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Friday, December 5, 2014

Super Typhoon Hagupit May Slam Samar Areas and Panic Buying Breaks Out

Typhoon “Ruby” intensified into a super typhoon yesterday and may further gather strength as it churned across the Pacific before its forecast landfall either in Northern Samar or Eastern Samar tomorrow.
In preparation for the onslaught of “Ruby,” schools and government offices were shut in various parts of the Visayas, while panic-buying of food broke out in these areas.
The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said it is almost certain that “Ruby” (international name “Hagupit”), which entered the Philippine area of responsibility (PAR) early Thursday, will make landfall either over Northern Samar or Eastern Samar tomorrow.
However, PAGASA refused to classify “Ruby” as a super typhoon because the term will only be made official next year. PAGASA defines a super typhoon as a cyclone having maximum sustained winds of more than 220 kph.
“There is now a small probability that ‘Ruby’ will re-curve toward Japan because the probability toward its landfall is almost certain,” PAGASA OIC Deputy Administrator for Operations and Services Dr. Landrico Dalida Jr. said.
International humanitarian group Oxfam said that if “Ruby” continues on its projected track, an estimated 4.5 million people within the tropical cyclone’s radius may be affected. It added that most of those that may be affected by “Ruby” are still recovering from the effects of super-typhoon “Yolanda” (international name ‘Haiyan”) which struck Eastern Visayas on November 8, 2013. “Yolanda” left at least 6,340 people dead, 28,000 injured, and 1,785 missing.
While PAGASA and the Japan Meteorological Agency predicted “Ruby” making a direct hit on the Visayas, the forecasting website Tropical Storm Risk and the Joint Typhoon Warning Center of the US navy showed the storm veering north, closer to Manila. 

As this developed, the government said it was considering declaring a state of national calamity to freeze prices of basic goods and President Aquino ordered the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to send more food supplies to provinces at risk from “Ruby” in the wake of the panic-buying.
“We want to bring in a lot more supplies to cut down on panic buying,” Aquino said at a meeting of the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC) at Camp Aguinaldo yesterday.
The move followed reports of stores shutting days ahead of the typhoon in order to raise prices of goods later.
“Many stores have closed in Tacloban,” said Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla, referring to the capital of Leyte province, where he hails from. “I think everybody is panicking at this point.”
Some residents in Tacloban also began evacuating from vulnerable coastal areas well ahead of its forecast landfall, while others emptied supermarket shelves of essential supplies.
“I survived Haiyan. I hope God will save me from Hagupit as well,” 94-year-old grandmother Florentina Azcarga told AFP as her extended family of eight moved into a sports stadium in Tacloban.
Azcarga, who can no longer walk, and her family left their home with a pot of rice and bags of clothes to join hundreds of others in the stadium who had evacuated ahead of official orders.
Aquino also directed Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas to check local ordinances which may be used to compel storeowners to open business in times of calamity. He issued the order after the DTI representative told him that there is no legal basis to compel store owners to open shop.
The Chief Executive also tasked the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to start repacking all their food items and immediately deploy them to the areas along the path of “Ruby” for immediate distribution of worse comes to worst.
DSWD Assistant Secretary Vilma Cabrera said some 118,000 food packs are currently being repacked, while 30,000 food packs are being repacked in every region. 

Aquino also warned Philippine National Police (PNP) personnel against abandoning their posts, citing the “Yolanda” experience in which only 20 out of more than 200 policemen assigned in Tacloban City reported for duty to help in disaster response.
“You should warn them that they could be charged. It is not acceptable that you are on duty but you will not appear,” Aquino told Director Danilo Constantino, head of the police’s Directorate for Police and Community Relations.
PAGASA acting Administrator Dr. Vicente Malano said “Ruby” entered the PAR at around 3 a.m. Thursday.
“We have raised storm warnings in nine provinces 36 hours in advance before the typhoon’s effects will be felt in these areas. In the next 36 hours, areas under Signal No. 1 will experience winds up to 63 kilometers per hour (kph),” Malano explained.
He said PAGASA issued in advance storm warning signals in areas that will be initially affected by the typhoon to give people enough time to prepare.
As of Thursday afternoon, PAGASA said “Ruby” was 720 kilometers (km) east of Surigao City and has further intensified, packing maximum sustained winds of 205 kph and gustiness of up to 240 kph. It is forecast to move west-northwest at 15 kph. The typhoon has slowed down slightly due to the influence of a high pressure area or an anti-cyclone system.
“If it maintains its speed and track, “Ruby” will make landfall over Northern Samar or Eastern Samar by “Majority of forecasting centers have the same scenario as PAGASA. Ruby will make landfall over Eastern Samar then traverse the Visayas then exit the landmass through Mindoro or northern Palawan,” PAGASA senior weather forecaster Chris Perez said. 

He compared the strength of “Ruby” to typhoon Pablo (international name “Bopha”), which struck Davao region on December 4, 2012. Pablo had 185 kph maximum sustained winds and gustiness of up to 220 kph when it made landfall over Baganga, Davao Oriental.
Pablo, was one of the strongest typhoon to directly hit the Philippines, which caused massive destruction on the provinces of Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley and forced more than 100,000 people to evacuate. It left at least 1,146 people dead, 2,666 injured, and 834 missing. It recorded R42.2-billion damage in infrastructure and agriculture.
As of Thursday afternoon, Ruby’s strength has already exceeded that of “Pablo,” but still weaker than “Yolanda,” which had maximum sustained winds of 235 kph and gustiness of up to 275 kph.
Perez said the initial effect of “Ruby,” a combination of rains and gusty winds, will be felt starting Friday evening, particularly in Eastern Visayas. “We are not ruling out the possibility that the typhoon will intensify further before its landfall,” he pointed out.
As of Thursday afternoon, signal No. 2 has been hoisted over Northern Samar, Eastern Samar, Samar, Biliran, Leyte, Southern Leyte, Dinagat Island, and Siargao Island. Signal No. 1 was raised over Catanduanes, Albay, Sorsogon, Masbate, Ticao Island, northern Cebu, Bantayan Island, Camotes Island, Bohol, Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur, Camiguin, and Agusan del Norte.
Rains are expected to become heavy to intense within the 700-km diameter of the typhoon. PAGASA said coastal waters along the eastern seaboard of Luzon, Visayas and northern and eastern seaboards of Mindanao will be rough to very rough and dangerous to all sea vessels. 

“Expect storm surge up to 3 to 4 meters along coastal areas, especially in the eastern part of the country,” Perez added. He said possible storm surges could occur over the eastern part of Samar, Bicol, Surigao del Sur, and Surigao del Norte.
“If ‘Ruby’ maintains its winds, the waves will only be up to 3 to 4 meters. But if maximum winds reach 225 kph, the height of sea waves will slightly increase,” Malano pointed out.
According to Dr. Mahar Lagmay, executive director of Project NOAH, storm surge prediction depends on the typhoon forecast.
“Based on the latest simulations, there is already a trend that there are areas that will be affected by storm surge, particularly Northern Leyte, Eastern Samar, and Samar,” Lagmay said.
He noted that the projected height of Ruby’s storm surge is lower than the 5 to 7 meters during “Yolanda.” “It is lower but still dangerous,” he warned.
However, Lagmay reminded the public not to panic because “they have enough time to evacuate.” “We are issuing storm surge warnings two days in advance. We already have detailed maps up to the barangay levels and the local government units concerned must use these as basis,” he added.
Local government officials and emergency teams from the Red Cross, army, and the Philippine Coast Guard were on alert for possible swollen rivers, landslides, flash floods, and storm surges, said Roger Mercado, governor of Southern Leyte province.
PAGASA said “Ruby” is expected to be 395 km east-southeast of Borongan, Eastern Samar, this morning. By Saturday morning, it is expected at 30 km northeast of Borongan, Eastern Samar, and will make landfall over the Samar area before Saturday noon. By Sunday morning, it is expected at 20 km south-southwest of Romblon.
Perez said Southern Luzon and Metro Manila will also experience rains from Ruby’s outer rainbands by Saturday evening until Sunday.
He said that if the typhoon maintains its present track, it will be outside the PAR by Tuesday morning. 

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