Basyang leaves Luzon in power crisis

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

MANILA - Tropical Storm Basyang (international codename: Conson) may have weakened on its way out of the Philippines but left the entire Luzon in a power crisis and 18 people dead and 57 others missing.

National Grid Corp of the Philippines (NGCP), the country's operator of transmission highway, said from 10 p.m. Tuesday to 12:25 a.m. Wednesday, nine of their major transmission lines bogged down.

NGCP said the Luzon grid suffered total power failure around 12:42 a.m. as a result of the damaged cause by the typhoon on its transmission lines.


The weather bureau also got the ire of President Benigno Aquino III in an emergency meeting Wednesday after it provided a wrong storm advisory Tuesday.

Weather specialists at the Philippines Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) earlier said that the storm will hit Northern and Central Luzon, however, Basyang battered Metro Manila Tuesday night.

In its 5 p.m. bulletin Wednesday, Pagasa said Basyang has weakened to 85 kph near the center with gustiness of up to 100 kph after it crossed Central Luzon including Metro Manila Tuesday night.

The storm earlier packed winds of up to 120 kph near the center as it approaches the Aurora-Northern Quezon area.

Pagasa deputy director for research and development Nathaniel Servando said the storm made its landfall in Infanta town in Quezon before it barreled Central Luzon and Metro Manila past midnight.

Moving northwest at 19 kph, the weather bureau said Basyang was estimated at 180 kilometers west of Iba, Zambales and will be at 480 kilometers west of Laoag City on Thursday afternoon.

Due to the inaccurate weather forecasting, the President ordered the review of country's weather forecasting system.

At a Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office meeting in Camp Aguinaldo Wednesday, the President hit weather officials, saying: "This is not acceptable."

"I did not get the information that the storm will change its course. For all I know it will only pass through Aurora province, nobody told me that it will hit Manila," the President fumed, hitting Pagasa officials.

Pagasa Chief Prisco Nilo explained that the existing weather equipment could only track typhoon direction every six hours, citing that the storm as of 11:00 p.m. Tuesday were gearing toward Bulacan and Central Luzon but not Metro Manila.

However, the million residents of the country's capital were surprised when strong winds and heavy rains hit the area past midnight.

"What is your problem? Tell us what you need. We can give you what you need," Aquino told Nilo, hoping that this will be the last error in forecasting.

He said the government is willing to allot budget to improve the weather system for accurate advisories.

But while Pagasa will be reviewing its forecasting system most of Luzon will be suffering power outages.

NGCP said with the damage suffered by their transmission likes, power supply in Metro Manila will be fully restored within two to three days.

Guillermo Redoblado, NGCP senior technical adviser, said they target to restore more than 50 percent of the power in Luzon grid by the end of July 14.

As of 3:00 p.m. Wednesday, around 41 percent of the 5,488 MW total power load in Luzon grid has been restored.

Redoblado said by end of Thursday they expect 57 percent in the Luzon grid to be restored, adding that more power plants like Sual-2 and Malaya-1 are expected to go online after completion of equipment tests.

Manila Electric Company (Meralco), on the other hand, said about 20 percent of electricity has been restored in their franchise area.

Meralco, however, said even if it finishes its restoration work ahead of time, transmission constraints on the part of the NGCP would have to be resolved before power can be fully restored in the entire Meralco franchise area.

Almost 100 linemen of NGCP have been deployed to patrol and repair transmission facilities affected by Typhoon Basyang.

On the other hand, Redoblado asked the public to be patient. "The citizenry can do a lot today. They have to understand us that we are doing our best to restore power service."

Aside from the power crisis, Basyang also left 18 people dead and 57 others missing, the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) reported.

The fatalities were reported in Central Luzon, Calabarzon, and Bicol Regions, most of them either drowned or hit by tree debris.

In Bataan province, two vessels, LPG carrier "Deborah Uno" and F/V Alicia, sunk off the coast of Mariveles amid strong winds and big waves that left one fatality. Alicia's six other crews went missing while Deborah's eight other men survived.

The NDCC added that there were 11 fishermen missing in Catanduanes while 40 others in different parts of Luzon.

Over 4,000 passengers were stranded in several ports in Luzon, and 495 houses were damaged, according to the NDCC

At the same time, a total of 160 incoming and departing flights at the Ninoy Aquino International airport were cancelled, delayed, or diverted few hours after Typhoon Basyang battered Metro Manila.

At least 70 arriving flights however have safely landed in the country's premiere airport Wednesday afternoon.

As of 6:00 p.m., a total of 12 international flights were affected, four of which were cancelled while the remaining were diverted to Diosdado Macapagal International Airport in Pampanga.

On other hand, 118 domestic flights of Cebu Pacific, Philippine Airlines, Air Philippines and Zest Air were cancelled following the storm's aftermath while 30 cargo planes were also prevented from departing the airport.

Services of the Light Rail Transit (LRT) Line 1 from Baclaran in Pasay City to Monumento in Caloocan City is still down due to power shortage while LRT line 2 from Recto to Santolan has resumed operation.

The Metro Rail Transit (MRT) is operational from North Avenue to Shaw Boulevard station. Other stations from Boni Avenue to Taft Avenue remains closed to the commuting public.

On the other hand, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) reported that 4,739 passengers got stranded due to the typhoon.

Meanwhile, the Department of Education (DepEd) said classes will resume Thursday, except in areas badly hit by Basyang.

DepEd Public Information Office Chief Kenneth Tirado said they are still monitoring the situation on the ground, adding that reports of damages to schools are still being collated.

The official said they are still waiting for reports from other regions such as Northern Luzon and the Bicol where classes were also ordered suspended due to the recent bad weather condition.

"We are in constant coordination with our officials in the said regions as well as with local government officials," Tirado said. (Katrina Alvarez/Jill Beltran/Virgil Lopez/AH/PNA/Sunnex)

Basyang leaves luzon power crisis

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