By: AFP, Inquirer.net, Jessa Mae O. Sotto, Jose Santino S. Bunachita, Morexette Marie B. Erram December 17,2017 - 10:47 PM

Because of the strong winds spawned by Tropical Storm “Urduja,” this hut made of bamboo and light materials in Barangay Lapaz, Bogo City in northern Cebu was blown away several meters from its original location. This photo was taken on Dec. 17, 2017, hours after Urduja crossed the northern section of Cebu island.
(Tonee Despojo)

Another storm is coming and Cebu is again being asked to be prepared

Landslides triggered by Tropical Storm Urduja (International name Kai-Tak) have killed 26 people in the Eastern Visayas island province of Biliran, authorities said Sunday, a day after the storm pounded the Visayas.

“There is a total of 26 people dead from landslides in four towns of Biliran. We have recovered the bodies,” Sofronio Dacillo, Biliran provincial disaster risk reduction and management officer, told AFP.

Gerardo Espina, governor of the island province east of the much larger island of Leyte, gave the same figure for deaths in an interview on ABS-CBN television.

“Urduja” also left one dead and eight persons missing as heavy rain caused flash floods and landslides in several towns in Masbate province, reports from the Masbate Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office (PDRRMO) said.

Genalyn Decante, 42, died after she was swept away by flood in Sitio (sub-village) Ilawod in Barangay (village) Sta. Cruz in Palanas town. Eight remained missing in the same town.

Flash floods were reported in Barangay Uson, also in Palanas; Barangay Tugbo, Masbate City; and five villages in Uson town.

An elderly couple died after their house was hit by a landslide in Barangay Mabini, San Fernando town in Sibuyan Island of Romblon province at 8 a.m. on Sunday.

Senior Supt. Leo Quevedo, Romblon police chief, identified the fatalities as Masoline and Matilde Romero, both 60 years old.

Urduja slightly changed track on Sunday and started moving west-southwest towards Aklan province.

In its 5 p.m. bulletin, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) said Urduja was moving at 15 kph.

It was last spotted at 65 km south of Romblon town in Romblon with a strength of 55 kph and a gustiness of up to 80 kph.

Typhoon Signal No. 1 remained in the southern part of Mindoro, Romblon, Palawan, Aklan, Antique and Capiz.

Relief operations for people affected by “Urduja” have started, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement issued on Sunday.

The relief operations include the distribution of 368,000 family food packs worth P223 million, food and non-food items worth P393 million, and standby funds amounting to P245 million.

“Vital services, such as preparedness and response to disasters or calamities shall continue with their operations even during holidays,” Roque said.

The Department of National Defense, with the help of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management and the Office of Civil Defense, is coordinating with the local governments in “closely monitoring any possible weather disturbances,” he added

Vinta is coming

Even before Cebu can take a breather from the days of incessant rain spawned by Tropical Storm Urduja, another typhoon is expected to unleash strong winds and rainfall in Cebu by Christmas.

Cebu City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (CCDRRMO) head Nagiel Bañacia yesterday asked Cebuanos to not let their guards down as another weather disturbance is again headed for the Visayas.

The storm, which is brewing more than a thousand kilometers east of Mindanao, would likely enter the Philippine area of responsibility (PAR) by December 20 and would be named Vinta, according to Pagasa.

Vinta was spotted 1,950 km east of Mindanao as of 5 p.m. yesterday and was expected to enter PAR on Wednesday or Thursday, or Dec. 20 or Dec. 21.
It was predicted to make landfall in Eastern Mindanao or Eastern Visayas on Dec. 23 if it would stay on its current track.

Pagasa–Mactan chief Al Quiblat said that while there is a big chance that the storm would enter PAR by Dec. 20 and affect Cebu, it would be too early to say what would be its strength.

However, he said, it is best for the public to be prepared.

“Mangandam pero ayaw og panic (Be prepared but do not panic),” advised Quiblat.

“Dako ang chance nga mosud sa PAR. Ang problema kay dili ta kasiguro karon kay kulang ang atong data. Daghan kaayong scenarios pwedeng mahitabo (There is a big chance that it will enter PAR. The problem is we cannot be definite since our data are incomplete. There are lots of scenarios that can happen),” he added.

Quiblat said that based on available data, Vinta has a fifty-fifty chance to hit land.

But Vinta, which was estimated to pack winds of up to 50 kilometers per hour, could not be compared to Super Typhoon Yolanda, which packed winds of up to 235 kph.

“Remote kaayo ang posibilidad nga mopareha ni siya ni Yolanda (The possibility is remote that it would be like Yolanda),” he stressed.

Plan ahead, eliminate hazards

“Please start now to plan on what to do to become resilient from this new weather disturbance. You(r) plan of action must be based on the hazards and risks within your premises in case the typhoon will hit our locality. Remember, typhoon brings strong winds and heavy downpour,” he said in an advisory on Sunday posted on his Facebook page.

Bañacia suggested that since Christmas decorations outside homes could be a hazard during the typhoon, these should be removed and kept indoors instead.

Branches of big trees should also be trimmed down as early as now to avoid trees falling down due to strong winds. Bañacia said falling trees could be dangerous as it may damage houses if it is located near one.

Trees near power lines and roads should also be trimmed to prevent power outage and hindrances in case of emergency operations.

Bañacia also reminded the public that they should have their own emergency plans in their respective homes especially during the time that the storm would hit.

“Remember, no rescue operations can be conducted during the time we are hit and devastated by the typhoon for it endangers the lives of our responders,” he said in his post.

“So, plan now how to survive. Eliminate the hazards and risks inside your house or premises. This will help you decide to evacuate to a safe location (advisable at the resilient house of your relatives and friends),” his post further read.

He reiterated that proper planning is important in disaster preparedness in order to save lives and properties.

Hardest hit

Daanbantayan, a first-class municipality 120 km north of Cebu City, had the most number of families evacuated when Urduja crossed northern Cebu on Saturday.

But even as the storm did not cause as much damage in Daanbantayan as it did in other areas in the Visayas, it still left a big portion of the town, including Sitio Mahayahay where the Teodoros live, submerged in floodwater.

A large section of the town also remained without electricity until yesterday, even as Cebu Electric Cooperative (Cebeco) linemen were working double time to restore power in the town.

Initial data from the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO) revealed that over 4,000 families or 20,000 individuals in Daanbantayan alone were forced to evacuate on Saturday evening as huge waves began to reach the shores, and creeks started to overflow.

Also evacuated were 20 families in Medellin and 10 families in Sogod, also towns in northern Cebu that bore the brunt of Urduja.

Among those in need of help were around 50 families, or about 250 individuals, on the island of Carnaza in Daanbantayan, who were reportedly in need of food assistance but still have to receive aid even if travel to the island from the mainland has resumed.

Daanbantayan Mayor Vicente Loot said they would be prioritizing the delivery of food packs for residents of Carnaza Island and urged the Department of Social Welfare and Development in Central Visayas (DSWD-7) to do the same.

“We’re more concerned about the island of Carnaza. Two days of bad weather have exhausted their food packs,” Loot said.

He said the municipal and provincial governments have provided at least 1,000 food packs for mainland evacuees, all of whom had returned to their homes by late afternoon of Sunday.

The Office of Civil Defense in Central Visayas (OCD –7), on the other hand, said the storm left “slight damages” on infrastructure and crops in Cebu, even as the storm caused the collapse of a portion of the national road in Sitio Anapog, Brgy. Tinubdan, Daanbantayan; and the provincial road in Brgy. Labangon, Tabogon. Both roads were only passable to four-wheel vehicles.

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