As victims still reel from floods: 'Super typhoon' set to hit Luzon - Cebu Circle | Cebu City, Philippines

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Friday, October 2, 2009

As victims still reel from floods: 'Super typhoon' set to hit Luzon

October 02, 2009 CEBU, Philippines - The country went on a high alert yesterday as a “super typhoon” threatens to unleash more devastation for millions of people already struggling to recover from deadly floods that claimed 277 lives.

Typhoon Pepeng was gaining strength as it churned towards the Philippines and was expected to dump more heavy rain on areas still reeling from the weekend floods that forced nearly 700,000 people into evacuation camps.

The coming storm may not bring heavy rains to Cebu, but it will greatly impact the coastal areas with the surge of large waves to be likely brought by the typhoon’s 230 kilometers per hour gustiness, according to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa).

The latest report from Pagasa recorded tropical cyclone “Pepeng” to be located, based on satellite and surface data, at 440 kilometers east of Catarman, Northern Samar continuously moving and gaining more strength as it moves towards Northern Luzon.

It is expected to be at 100 kilometers northeast of Virac, Catanduanes or at 300 kilometers Southeast of Baler, Aurora this afternoon.

Pagasa expects it to make a landfall in Aurora-Isabela area on Saturday morning and will be in the vicinity of Mt. Province by Saturday afternoon.

By Sunday afternoon, it will be at 190 kilometers Northwest of Laoag City.

“We are dealing with a very strong typhoon, so we should be at the highest level of preparedness,” weather bureau spokesman Nathaniel Santiago said, amid forecasts the typhoon would make landfall on Saturday.

“There is a possibility that this will become a super typhoon.”

The government defines a super typhoon as one with winds reaching 175-200 kilometers per hour with the potential to cause heavy damage.

With its current speed, Pagasa-7 Observer IV Boy Artiaga said that Pepeng will not likely bring heavy rains to one area at the same time.

Unlike typhoon “Ondoy,” which had an average measured movement of only 11 kph from one point to another.

This means that Pepeng may bring significant volume of rains, but it will be scattered to different areas it will pass through.

In the case of “Ondoy,” the rain it brought was concentrated to the areas recently flooded in Luzon because of its slow movement.

Pagasa-7 Regional Director Engineer Oscar Tabada warned that people living in the coastal areas must start evacuating now because Pepeng will bring storm surges – these are big waves generated by storm or strong winds.

In the open sea, it is likely to give 15-feet wave height while near shorelines it will produce about three to four feet high waves.

Damages to properties and loss of lives may happen if the public especially the coastal communities will not prepare for this imminent disaster, Tabada said. As “Pepeng” continues to gain strength, fisherfolk are discouraged to sail. Ships likewise will be given frequent updates or gale warnings for the meantime while Pagasa-7 is not issuing any public storm signal.

It was in November 1990, Cebu was ravaged by typhoon Ruping. The super typhoon left several millions of pesos in damage in its wake and plunging Cebu into darkness and powerlines were cut off.

The recent “Ondoy” phenomenon has alerted weather authorities because if the same volume of rainfall pours in Cebu, Tabada said that Cebu will also be “drowned.”

Back in 1990s when Ruping hit the province, as Tabada can remember, Cebu has experienced a total rainfall of 276.2 millimeters per hour. Ruping had a gustiness of 205 kph.

About 38 ships sunk and communications from outside the island were lost for more than a week. Power was completely restored only after more than a month.

Though these things happened nearly two decades ago, the public must not rest comfortably and confident enough because with the changing climate patterns, it may happen anytime.

Tabada said that Pagasa is trying hard to modernize the weather monitoring to ensure more accurate report on weather updates.

For residents in low lying areas and upland areas especially those prone to landslides, Artiaga said that they must also be prepared to evacuate in case Pepeng stays longer and bring more rains that may cause flashfloods and landslides.

While Pepeng is likely to bring less than half the rains of Saturday’s tropical storm Ondoy, it was expected to compound flooding in Manila, parts of which remain submerged due to blocked drainage systems.

Ondoy dumped the heaviest rains in four decades on Manila and in surrounding areas on Luzon island, triggering floods that swamped the national capital with up to six meters of water.

The number of people known to have been affected by Ondoy in the country rose to 2.5 million on Thursday, the government said in its latest update, up nearly 300,000 from Wednesday’s estimate.

Forced Evacuations

Meanwhile, authorities have begun forced evacuations of residents in high-risk areas in Metro Manila and other parts of the country that would be affected by typhoon Pepeng.

Deputy Presidential Spokesman and Office of Civil Defense Deputy Administrator Anthony Golez said disaster and local authorities have begun implementing President Arroyo’s instructions that “relief supplies are stockpiled or pre-positioned already in areas that are perceived to be or known to be the path of the super typhoon or the typhoon.”

“The disaster rescue tools have already been pre-positioned specifically to areas that are known to be hazard places for this particular weather disturbance,” Golez said in news briefing. —/NLQ(FREEMAN NEWS)

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