Sea travelers stranded as tropical depression approaches

AS of 5 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 27, 603 passengers, 54 rolling cargoes, 20 vessels, and two motorized bancas were stranded in Cebu, while tropical depression Usman moved towards Eastern Visayas.

Lt. JG Mike Encina, operations officer of the Philippine Coast Guard, said vessels bound for Southern Luzon and Mindanao were not allowed to sail. Another 19 vessels took shelter in Cebu because of the coming weather disturbance.

Encina said 200 passengers, seven rolling cargoes and three motorized bancas were stranded in Bohol.

He said Cebu is included in the Tropical Cyclone Warning Signal. The vessels, though, will be allowed to sail once the signal is lifted, he said.

Al Quiblat, concurrent chief of the weather bureau Pagasa in Mactan and the Visayas, said Usman slowed down from 20 kilometers per hour (kph) to 15 kph. However, it has maintained its gustiness of between 55 kph and 65 kph, which is dangerous for sea travel.

Based on the current forecast, Quiblat said Cebu will be spared from the brunt of the tropical depression, which will make landfall in Guiuan, Eastern Samar on Friday, Dec. 28, before heading to Cuyo in Palawan on Saturday, Dec. 29, and Puerto Princesa on Sunday morning, Dec. 30. Usman is expected to leave the country on Monday morning, Dec. 31.

In Cebu, the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO) asked for a temporary halt of tourism activities, including island-hopping.

The PDRRMO placed the province under a red alert status on Thursday, Dec. 27, after Pagasa placed Northern Cebu, including the islands of Camotes and Bantayan, under Storm Signal No. 1.

“Many stranded passengers will beg. Some will even offer more money just so they can travel. To those of you who live by the coast or near small piers, please don’t be tempted to accept these offers,” said Julius Regner in Cebuano. Regner is the information officer of the PDRRMO.

Regner said the red alert status is a preventive measure since Usman might bring heavy rains in some areas and flood low-lying barangays.

As of 4 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 27, the trips of roll-on-roll-off vessels to and from the islands of Bantayan and Camotes islands were canceled.

Regner said his office has informed the disaster officers in Northern Cebu and Camotes Islands to prepare for search and rescue operations.

In Lapu-Lapu City, Mayor Paz Radaza urged residents of Olango Island not to cross the sea.

She said Olango residents often sail to mainland Mactan Island to buy groceries, but they should stay at home because of the bad weather.

Radaza ordered barangay officials in Olango to monitor their jurisdictions and residents.

City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office Chief Andy Berame said they will be monitoring Barangays Maribago, Buaya, Bangkal, Buaya, Poblacion and Gun-ob, as these are flood-prone areas. EOB & AZLG, GCM of Superbalita Cebu / KAL


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