Government will no longer use Sendong to name typhoons

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Wednesday, December 21, 2011


SENDONG will no longer be used as a name for visiting tropical cyclones in the future after it battered several areas in Visayas and Mindanao last week, killing more than 1,000 people in its four-day swing.

Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Secretary Mario Montejo confirmed the planned delisting on Wednesday as Sendong’s damage to infrastructure, agriculture, and school buildings has reached nearly P1 billion.

The estimate is expected to rise in the coming days pending agencies' damage assessment of the typhoon, the deadliest to hit the country after back-to-back typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng in 2009.

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"Yes," Montejo said when asked by reporters if Sendong’s name will be retired very soon.

A storm name can only be delisted if the damage exceeds P1 billion or if it killed over 300 people, according to the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa).

This year, however, saw the re-appearance of the La Niña phenomenon that brings above-average rainfall.

Three more codenames were decommissioned by Pagasa in the past seven months.

These are Pedring, Bebeng, and Juaning, which caused damage of over P12 billion, P1.37 billion and P2.2 billion, respectively.

Pedring crossed Central Luzon provinces including Metro Manila in late September, inflicting heavy damage to property and disrupting electricity and communications services.

Several towns especially in the rice-producing province of Bulacan and Pampanga were submerged for weeks.

Bebeng cut through the provinces in Bicol Region last May, destroying farm lands, houses, and triggering landslides in the area while Juaning slammed Northern and Central Luzon in late July.

Pagasa had already prepared the names of storms that will hit the country until 2016.

In the same briefing, Montejo said the high death toll in the flashflood in Cagayan de Oro City last week could have been caused by damaged dams in the upstream of the city river.

"It is most likely that the flashflood in Cagayan de Oro was caused not only simply by the high volume of rain that fell in the watershed of rivers in said places but essentially of the collapse of dams at the upper parts of the rivers," he said.

At present, the reported collapse of three dams--one of which costs P20 million--is currently being investigated, upon instructions of President Benigno Aquino III.

Surging floodwaters brought by the rains of Sendong swamped communities along the 22-kilometer path of the Cagayan de Oro River, which occurred when most people are still asleep on Saturday dawn.

Thousands of people are expected to spend Christmas in various evacuation centers as the government and civil society organizations race against time to provide immediate relief.

Power restoration ongoing

Meanwhile, the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP), the private entity that controls the country's power grids, finished repair and its clearing operations in all of its northeastern Mindanao transmission lines.

The Department of Energy (DOE), however, said that due to physical conditions of areas affected by the flashflood, power is still on hold for those areas that are still submerged in flood water and mud for safety reasons to avoid short circuits, electrocutions, and fire breakouts.

Still, the DOE said power will be restored as soon as the areas are already cleared to be connected back to the grid.

As of Monday, about 85 percent of Cagayan Electric Power and Light Company, Inc. (Cepalco) service area covering Cagayan de Oro City and the municipalities of Tagoloan, Villanueva and Jasaan are back with power supply.

Quoting Cepalco, the DOE said that the remaining areas are already set for electrification but requires the city’s Office of the Building Official clearance and certification for safety and readiness for power restoration.

Cepalco had targeted to restore power in two weeks time.

In Iligan City, around 90 percent of power demand was already restored but the Iligan Light is still waiting until they can access some affected areas in the upper side of the city, which remains inaccessible.

This came after the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) has yet to wrap up their clearing operations.

In light of criticisms, the state weather bureau said it had properly warned the public on the possible effects of Sendong.

"Pagasa's forecasts on Sendong were delivered on time and that its rainfall and storm monitoring were on track," Pagasa Administrator Nathaniel Servando said.

He said that Pagasa issued warnings to the media since December 13 or three days before Sendong struck Northern Mindanao last Saturday.

When Sendong intensified into a storm, Pagasa held an urgent press conference last December 15 to announce the areas to be possibly hit by the storm.

The agency had another media briefing the next day as the storm approached the vicinity of Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur.

On the unusual amount of rainfall that caused flooding in Cagayan de Oro, Servando said that the 180-millimeter rainwater that drained in the port city was the same amount of rainfall in Hinatuan.

The town, which faces the Pacific Ocean, is normally visited by storms but Sendong killed only one person there.

In January 2009, the tail-end of a cold front submerged parts of Cagayan de Oro in water, the first time to occur in half a century. (Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)

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