‘Helen’ claims 2 lives-A A +A
Wednesday, August 15, 2012
MANILA (4th Update, 12:55 p.m.) — Tropical Storm Helen (international codename: Kai-Tak) slammed ashore Wednesday morning in northeastern Isabela province, killing at least two people and warning others for more flooding.
“Helen” made landfall over Palana, Isabela, at 1 a.m. Wednesday, with maximum sustained winds of 100 kilometers per hour (kph) and higher gusts, the weather bureau said in its Twitter account.
The head of the disaster-relief agency, Benito Ramos, reported two deaths: Armando Valde Borbon, 37, an epileptic who slipped in a flooded rice field in sitio Pinalapa, Dumpay, Basista in Pangasinan; and Andrew Mariano Batara, 47, a village watchman of Madamba, Dingras, Ilocos Norte, who drowned while swimming.
Ramos said some roads were flooded knee-deep and government warned of intense rains that may drench the sprawling Metro Manila that is still reeling from last week’s monsoon deluge.
Cagayan, Calayan, Babuyan Group of Islands, Isabela, Northern Aurora, Quirino, Nueva Vizcaya, Benguet, Ifugao, Mt. Province, Ilocos Sur, Apayao, Kalinga, Ilocos Norte, Abra and Batanes Group of Islands are placed under public storm signal no. 2.
The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) said these areas are expected to experience 61 to 100 kph winds within the next 24 hours.
Public storm signal no. 1 (45-60 kph winds) is hoisted over Nueva Ecija, Pangasinan, Tarlac, La Union and the rest of Aurora.
Residents living in low-lying and mountainous areas under public storm signal nos. 2 and 1 are alerted against possible flash floods and landslides. Likewise, those living in coastal areas under public storm signal no. 2 are alerted against big waves or storm surges generated by Tropical Storm Helen, Pagasa said.
Classes in high school and elementary levels are automatically suspended in areas under storm signal no. 2, while classes in pre-school levels are automatically suspended in areas under storm signal no. 1.
If it does not change direction – west northwest at 13 kph – “Helen” is expected to traverse northern farming provinces and exit along Luzon Island’s western seaboard within the day, possibly as a powerful typhoon heading toward southern China in the direction of Hong Kong.
Meanwhile, President Benigno Aquino III scrambled to avert another crisis when hundreds of state weather agency employees protested over their pay and warned that forecasting services could deteriorate.
On Tuesday, an alarmed Aquino rushed to assure the protesting weather agency employees that steps were being taken to resume payment of the cash benefits that had been suspended in March.
“I just reminded that since the weather is bad and we have a weather disturbance, we should not add to the worries of those who were hit by the floods,” Aquino told reporters after a hasty meeting with the restive employees.
Forecasters and other employees of Pagasa wore black arm bands and hoisted streamers urging the government to resume hazard pay and other allowances.
While the workers did not plan any work stoppage, protest leader Ramon Agustin said some hard-up employees have failed to report for work due to lack of money.
“The only reason why we remain strong in performing our tasks is our pure love for the country, but this would eventually weaken,” Agustin said in a news conference at the weather agency, which buzzed with activity as forecasters tracked the second storm.
Agustin said the employees have lost an average of P10,000 ($238) monthly since the benefits were suspended by officials in March.
Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said payment of the hazard pay and other cash benefits were suspended to correct past irregularities, but added the workers would get back the benefits soon.
The archipelago located in the tropical far western Pacific serves like a welcome mat for about 20 tropical storms and typhoons that develop in the open ocean and blow toward Asia every year. Heavy rain from those storms and the annual monsoon often cause flooding and landslides and leave a trail of death and destruction. (Sunnex/AP/PNA)