Hundreds of passengers bound for Cebu’s northern tip and its neighboring island-provinces were left stranded after small seacrafts were prevented from leaving the ports of Cebu yesterday amid foul weather spawned by Tropical Storm Urduja.
The continuous rain caused by the storm also prompted Cebu Gov. Hilario Davide III to suspend classes today and tomorrow in the pre-elementary and elementary levels, both in private and public schools, in the entire province.
A separate advisory to suspend classes in public and private elementary schools in Mandaue City was also issued last night by Mayor Luigi Quisumbing.
“In the light of information from Pagasa that we are expecting between 50 to 100 mm of rainfall over the next 24 hours, I have decided to cancel public school classes up to the high school level. Private schools are encouraged to cancel classes as their management deem appropriate,” said Quisumbing’s Facebook post on Thursday night.
He also placed the city’s emergency and engineering service crews on red alert status so they could immediately respond to any eventualities that may result from heavy raining.
The red alert status will stay until such time that the Philippine area of responsibility (PAR) is cleared of any weather disturbances.
Due to the storm’s large diameter, which spans up to 400 kilometers, the state weather bureau placed northern Cebu, including Bantayan Island, under Storm Signal No. 1. Also in the same category were the provinces of Catanduanes, Camarines Sur, Albay, Sorsogon, Masbate, Romblon, Northern Samar, Leyte, Southern Leyte, Capiz, Aklan and northern Iloilo.
By 8 p.m., however, Pagasa has placed the entire islands of Samar and Biliran under Storm Signal Number 2.
Pagasa said Urduja, which was expected to make landfall over Eastern Samar this morning, remained almost stationary and continued to bring damage to Eastern Visayas as of the 8 p.m. weather bulletin.
Fisherfolks and those with small seacraft were advised not to venture out over the seaboards of the Visayas, including Cebu and of the eastern seaboard of Bicol Region due to rough to “very rough” seas associated with Urduja.
Urduja was packing a maximum sustained winds of up to 65 kilometers per hour near the center and gustiness of up to 90 kph. It was forecast to move west at 7 kph, Pagasa said.
Nene (not her real name), a woven basket trader from Antiquera town in Bohol, was one of those stranded at the Cebu City’s Pier 1 after authorities canceled trips bound for Tagbilaran City.
She said she understood the need to cancel her trip and would patiently wait inside the terminal for the trip to resume rather than risk their safety by traveling amid rough seas.
Maca, 17, and her mother also decided to spend the night at Pier 1, or until the voyage bound for her home province Leyte would resume.
“We wanted to go home as soon as possible because the only one left in our house in Isabela town in Leyte is my younger brother. He needed us soon,” she said, but had no choice but to stay put.
Maca and her mother were among the nearly 300 individuals stranded in various ports of Cebu as of noon yesterday. The number was expected to rise later in the day.
As of 3:12 p.m. yesterday, 25 passenger vessels and nine cargo ships have been prevented from leaving the ports due to strong winds and big waves reaching as high as 4.5 meters, the Philippine Coast Guard in Cebu (PCG-Cebu) said.
Jerome Cayabyab, station commander of PCG-Cebu, told Cebu Daily News in a phone interview yesterday that despite the absence of a gale warning advisory in Central Visayas from Pagasa, they have directed their substations, particularly those in northern Cebu, to warn ship officers about the bad weather.
“Even if there is no gale warning advisory from the PCG Action Center, it is urgent to let owners of the shipping lines, and their captains about the impending danger at sea due to the storm. We also advised small fishing vessels not to sail,” Cayabyab said.
He added that a fastcraft of Oceanjet bound for Camotes Island from Pier 1, carrying 39 passengers, also detoured midway on its trip due to bad weather in the north, and returned to the wharf in Cebu City for safety.
“All passengers were refunded with their tickets,” stated Cayabyab.
Meanwhile, Department of Education (DepEd) -Cebu Province Superintendent Rhea Mar Angtud said the governor and DepEd-Cebu agreed to give local government units (LGUs) discretion to include the secondary level in the suspension of classes.
In the north, the towns of Sogod, Santa Fe in Bantayan Island, Daanbantayan, San Remigio and Medellin expanded the suspension of classes up to the secondary level. However, work would continue in government offices in these municipalities.
Alice Canasa, weather specialist from Pagasa-Mactan, meanwhile, said that their agency has also issued a Yellow Rainfall Advisory in the portions of Cebu not covered by the storm signal wherein rainfall rate can reach up to 15 millimeters per hour.
“Urduja is moving at a very slow pace. This is because she’s bringing in more rains. That’s why we issued a yellow alert in Cebu,” Canasa stated.
“Moderate and heavy rains are expected in areas within the storm’s diameter, and they have rainfall up to 30 millimeters per hour. While those located outside will experience scattered to widespread rains. Nevertheless, both can lead to flash floods and landslides,” she added.
Canasa also said that due to Urduja’s slow pace, the storm signal hoisted over northern Cebu was likely to stay for the next 24 hours.
Under Storm Signal No. 1, wind with speeds of 60 kph was expected.
On the other hand, disaster response teams from LGUs in Cebu remain on alert even as no incident of flash flood, landslide or casualty had been reported despite two days of incessant rain.
Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO) chief Baltazar Tribunalo Jr. said they were now under Orange Alert, which means that all their counterparts in the municipal, city and barangays levels were placed on standby.
“And our monitoring has not ceased, particularly in areas prone to flash floods and landslides. Our emergency response team is also ready for possible evacuation, and the province is ready to render additional help if needed,” said Tribunalo.
The Cebu City Disaster Risk Reduction Management office (CDRRMO) also asked their barangay units to activate their local response team and disaster risk reduction management council in preparation for further weather disturbances.
CDRRMO head Nagiel Bañacia said he has not received any reports of flooding in the urban center or landslides in the mountain barangays, but they remained to be vigilant and would be ready to respond to any such event in a moment’s notice.
In Bohol province, Gov. Edgar Chatto also ordered the suspension of todays’ classes in kindergarten and elementary levels.
Quoting Pagasa Visayas director Oscar Tabada, the Bohol PDRRMC posted on Facebook on Thursday night that the province was expected to experience intense rainfall by Friday afternoon.
But the advisory said that suspension of classes in private schools will be left to the discretion of the school management.