Saturday, September 22, 2018

Bracing for Ompong

BEFORE it could even make landfall, typhoon Ompong has already affected classes in all levels and tourism activities in different parts of Cebu yesterday.

Tourism activities and even inter-island travel will remain suspended as Ompong is expected to make landfall in Baler, Aurora Province today.

The Cebu Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO) reported that around 112 foreign nationals and 50 locals were stranded in various islands of Cebu Province after the Coast Guard (CG) suspended boat travel.

“The CG is coordinating with local government units (LGUs) and the Department of Social Welfare and Development in affected areas so we can provide assistance to stranded passengers,” said CG 7 operations officer Michael John Encina in Tagalog.

From 5 p.m. last Thursday to 3 p.m. yesterday, the number of stranded passengers had reached 607, while 158 rolling cargoes, 68 vessels and 24 motorbancas were prevented from sailing.

“The CG has deployed additional personnel to deal with the situation. Majority of those stranded are somewhere in Bato, Santander. Twenty additional CG personnel were deployed to assist them,” Encina said in Tagalog.

Suspended classes

The municipalities of Minglanilla, Santander, Sibonga, Tuburan, Compostela, Boljoon, Sta. Fe, Bantayan, Madridejos and Poro; and the cities of Cebu, Talisay, Mandaue, Lapu-Lapu, Bogo and Danao suspended classes in all levels yesterday, said PDRRMO head Baltazar Tribunalo.

Tourism activities in Oslob, Moalboal, Badian, Alegria, Medellin, Sta. Fe, Dalaguete and Malapascua Island were also canceled.

Until the weather clears, there will be no canyoneering, diving and island hopping in Cebu. Whale watching was also temporarily stopped.

In Dalaguete, 13 tourists from Manila who were planning to spend their vacation at Osmeña Peak were forced to return to town to avoid being caught by unusual weather disturbances brought about by Ompong.

Arien Monterona, Provincial Tourism Office environmental compliance and monitoring coordinator, told reporters that they are monitoring the identities of the stranded tourists, particularly the foreign nationals, so their respective embassies will be informed of their whereabouts.

Some 75 foreign and seven local tourists are stuck in Malapascua, while 10 foreign and three local tourists are stuck in Camotes. Some 27 foreign and six local tourists are stranded in Sumilon Island off Oslob, while 23 tourists are stranded in Dumanjug.

However, most of them just returned to their hotels. All of them were safe.

As of yesterday, Ompong was located 425 kilometers east northeast of Baler, said Engr. Alfredo Quiblat, chief weather specialist of weather bureau Pagasa Mactan station.

Quiblat said that once it makes landfall, Ompong is expected to bring light to moderate rains and strong winds to Cebu and to the rest of Central Visayas.

Preparing for the worst

He said that Ompong is moving at a slow pace at 25 kilometers per hour and is expected to dump 555 millimeters of rain in Luzon within the next 24 hours.

Quiblat said that while typhoon Yolanda had stronger maximum sustained winds, Ompong is larger in diameter and carries more rain than wind.

While only light to moderate rains will be felt in Cebu and the rest of Central Visayas, Quiblat advised inter-island travelers to sit this one out, especially after a gale warning signal was raised in the entire Visayas area.

Meanwhile, Cebu City Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office chief Nagiel Bañacia said that the City has pre-positioned heavy equipment in the mountain barangays in case a landslide occurs. Evacuation centers have also been identified.

The Department of Social Welfare and Services also prepared food packs in case some residents need to be evacuated.

The Visayan Electric Company also announced that their contingency plan is in place.

“We have started 12-hour shifts for our emergency crew so that we can assist customers immediately. This is effective today until typhoon Ompong will exit PAR (Philippine Area of Responsibility),” it said. (JKV, HBL, RVC)