'Juan' leaves 13 dead-A A +A
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
MANILA (Updated 6:34 a.m.) -- Super Typhoon “Juan” (international codename: Megi) killed at least 13 people and flattened forests and crops in northern Luzon before heading to the South China Sea on Tuesday.
Typhoon Juan was almost stationary packing winds of 175 kph but was forecast to regain strength before its expected landfall in southern China on Thursday.
Robert Sawi, acting state weather division chief, also ruled out the possibility of the super typhoon to claw its way back to northern Luzon.
“The high pressure will only render the typhoon quasi-stationary and as soon as it weakens, the typhoon will move out of the Philippines,” he said.
With the storm still hovering, the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) said the western sections of Luzon will experience rains and moderate to strong winds.
As of 5 a.m. Wednesday, Pagasa said Juan was continuously moving slowly in a northwestward direction at a pace of seven kilometers per hour (kph) and was spotted at 340 kilometers west northwest of Dagupan City, packing maximum sustained winds of 175 kph and gusts of up to 210 kph.
Storm signal number 1 is up in Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union, Benguet, Pangasinan and Zambales.
Although public storm signals were already lowered in some areas, Pagasa said strong to gale force winds (55 to 63 kph) is expected to affect the northern, eastern and southern seaboards of Luzon and the western seaboards of Visayas.
“We advised fishermen not to sail. It’s too dangerous for them to do so because one can expect rough to very rough seas and wave height between 3.7 to 4.5 meters,” said Sawi.
Juan is expected to be at 440 kilometers west of Laoag City by Thursday morning and at 570 kilometers west northwest of Laoag City by Friday morning.
At least 13 deaths in Cagayan, Isabela and Pangasinan provinces were blamed on the typhoon, including at least six drownings.
In Pangasinan province, a mother, her daughter and son were pinned to death when a tree collapsed on their house, disaster official Eugene Cabrera said.
Police chief Abubakar Mangelen Jr. identified the victims as Ana Vidal, 29; her daughter EJ, 4; and son Ogie, 2; all from the village of Sagud-Baley in San Fabian.
Another victim, Reddy Espinoza, was killed after he was hit by lightning while harvesting palay in a village in Mangatarem town on Monday.
One dead was found at the shoreline of Ilocos Sur province.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said more families were evacuated to safer grounds following the stalled departure of Juan.
As of Tuesday, the agency reported 15,967 persons displaced in Ilocos, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon and Cordillera Administrative Region.
Landslides were also reported in Kapanga in Aurora province and in Calanasan town in Apayao.
The Tawi and Cabagan bridges in Aparri, Cagayan remains impassable while the province is experiencing continuous power failure.
The government has also yet to quantify the extent of damage wrought by the strongest typhoon to hit the country in four years but the agriculture department made an early estimate of P1.5 billion in losses.
Cagayan Valley and Ilocos regions lost around 12 percent of their rice production for the season. Cagayan Valley alone accounts for 30 percent of the national rice output.
Assistant Secretary Salvador Salacup told reporters that Megi damaged 70,500 tons of unmilled rice (palay) and 33,000 tons of corn, especially in badly hit Isabela, Cagayan and flooded farm areas in Central Luzon.
“This is just our initial estimate. We pegged our worst-case scenario at 700,000 metric tons. I just hope that it would not breach that level. Perhaps we have to review our production target of 16.2 million metric tons if the damage would be extensive,” he said.
Senator Francis Pangilinan said the lost harvest will force farmers to borrow from loan sharks until the next planting season.
Pangilinan called the Department of Agriculture and the Provincial Governments to extend as much assistance to farmers affected by the typhoon.
President Benigno Aquino III said Tuesday that although the typhoon caused significant damage, the loss of life was minimal and "could have been much greater had we not prepared for the storm."
The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) reported no major flooding in the metropolis in the first 24 hours.
But MMDA chairman Francis Tolentino said floodwaters rose briefly in Dagat-Dagatan, Caloocan City. The agency’s Flood Control Unit with three specially-constructed wooden flood boats was sent in those areas.
In Lower Bicutan, Taguig, waters rose waist-deep, Tolentino said, adding they also deployed vacuum trucks to immediately address the situation.
Minor flooding were also reported in Malabon, Navotas, Valenzuela, Caloocan and Quezon City, but the agency said waters have already receded.
MMDA Task Force Unos head Ramon Santiago said their personnel and equipment remained ready for immediate deployment for any eventuality.
“If the weather condition worsens, we will escalate to blue alert, wherein additional MMDA personnel consisting of 30 percent of Task Force Unos will be deployed on a 24/7 basis,” added Santiago.
The typhoon’s stationary movement, however, took its toll in Metro Manila and nearby provinces, following the cancellation of classes and flights.
The Department of Education (DepEd) and the Commission on Higher Education suspended classes in pre-school, elementary, high school and college in the National Capital Region and in some areas of Calabarzon due to heavy rains.
DepEd also said that classes at all levels in Ilocos, Cagayan Valley and the Cordillera Administrative Region remains suspended Wednesday.
In a related development, six flights were cancelled at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
Budget airline Cebu Pacific cancelled four flights servicing the Manila to Busuanga (Palawan) route while Philippine Airlines (PAL) said its operations went back to normal.
Cebu Pacific, however, did not state the reason behind the cancellation of flights 5J-529, 5J-033, 5J-034 and 5J-530 (Manila-Busuanga-Manila).
The Southeast Asian Airlines, on the other hand, cancelled flight DG 067 to Basco, Batanes, which was supposed to leave at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday.
On Monday, Cebu Pacific called off six flights between Manila and Cagayan, Ilocos Norte and Isabela provinces.
“There will only be slight delays due to rains and air traffic. However, please do stay tuned in case there are more developments later on,” said Cebu Pacific.
For its part, PAL spokesperson Cielo Villaluna said: “All PAL flights went back to normal. We have zero cancellations starting Tuesday."
She advised Manila-Laoag and Laoag-Manila passengers affected by Monday's cancellations to visit any PAL ticket office or call PAL reservations at 855-8888 for rebooking. (Virgil Lopez/Jill Beltran/AP/Katrina Alvarez/Glaiza Jarloc/Jonathan de Santos/AH/AMN/ Liway C. Manantan-Yparraguirre/Sunnex)