RESIDENTS in Northern Mindanao region will brace for one of the “most intense if not the strongest” storm that will hit the country this year as it enters the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR) early today, Thursday, and make its landfall in Eastern Visayas by Friday.
The Joint Typhoon Warning Center, in an article in Washingtonpost.com, estimates that the maximum sustained winds are 120 miles per hour (mph), and is equal to three hurricanes.
All disaster risk reduction management councils in region have been convened by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) on Wednesday.
DILG regional director Rene Burdeos said Yolanda could be a very destructive typhoon when it enters the country and hits land.
Burdeos advised the local government units to activate their disaster risk reduction management councils (DRRMCs) to mitigate the impact of loss of lives and damage to properties when Yolanda hits land by Friday.
Ret. Col. Ramon Verner Monsanto of the Oro DRRMC has put its disaster response team and rescue units on 24/7 high alert.
Monsanto gathered all local officials and different sectors Wednesday for the final briefing of the preparations.
The City Social Welfare and Development (CSWD) headed by Teddy Sabugaa assured that basic needs such as water and foods are readily available in case Yolanda will bring damage to Oro communities.
He said the CSWD has already assigned trained personnel to handle orderly distribution of relief goods, medical and counseling services.
The Cagayan de Oro Water District (COWD) already sealed its water boosting stations as part of its preventive measures for Yolanda.
The city fire department ensures the 100 water tanks in all evacuation centers are filled.
The City Public Services office and the military’s 4th Infantry Division based here are also preparing their vehicles for any possible evacuations.
The rivers in Barangays Iponan, Tablon, Bugo and in Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental have been closely monitored.
Monsanto said the Oro Rescue is up 24/7, and that rubber boats and patrol boats are ready should disaster result when Yolanda hits land.
The CDRRMO welcomes support from groups, volunteers, civic organizations, nongovernment organizations (NGOs) and companies that are willing to help in the pre-emptive response, rescue and relief operations.
Part of the pre-emptive response is clearing the surroundings by cutting trees and other obstructions that may damage structures like houses. To strengthen the weak spots of houses, repairs should be done the soonest for the structures to stand against strong winds.
In flood prone and landslide areas, residents have been briefed on what to do by their barangay DRRMCs.
Monsanto said the best that people can do in the face of dangers is never panic. Instead, listening to instructions by the barangay leaders is the best option.
The area-wide warning and alarm systems whether stationary or portable have been activated.
Engr. Jofferdale Gallamaso of Xavier University weather warned that based on their monitoring the high sea temperature indicates Yolanda will be much stronger compared with the previous typhoons.
Gallamaso assured that the XU-DRRM program covering danger zone barangays has equipped them with mitigation and response through training and planning.
Gallamaso said XU will be open to the city’s residents when disaster strikes.
“We have identified areas near us that are elevated,” said Ernie Garcia, a resident from Sitio San Lazaro, Barangay Lapasan.
He added that he and his family is planning to rush to Galaxy in Barangay Gusa in case the water in their area would rise.
Garcia said that some of his neighbors are planning to find safety in SM area in Upper Carmen if worse comes to worst.
“During (Tropical Storm) Sendong, the area near Galaxy was not flooded or at any how affected by the typhoon,” said Garcia, on why he chose the place to temporarily relocate his family.
Charles Abcede, a resident from Barangay Kauswagan, is thinking of seeking refuge in Xavier Estates in Upper Balulang because it is elevated and his family has lots of friends in the said posh subdivision.
Jonny Saraos, a student from Balingasag, Misamis Oriental, whose boarding house is in Capistrano this city, said he is thinking of taking refuge at Centrio Mall in case the floodwaters will swarm his room.
Animal evacuation center
City Veterinary head Dr. Perla J. Asis said an evacuation center for animals has been put up in Upper Lumbia at the Capitol University ranched owned by Juarez family.
The City Vet Office will rescue all animals that would be left behind as massive evacuation would be ordered.
Pet owners can call the City Vet’s hotline number 09177199459 whenever they need help to rescue their pets or any other domestic animals. All rescued animals will be temporarily sheltered and provided with food and water.
The owners could retrieve them soon as the storm ebbs.
Asis reminds residents who have domestic or pet animals to unleash them since they have survival instincts just like the humans.
In the devastating Typhoon Sendong, dead animals retrieved died because they were tied.
In Iligan City, Mayor Celso Regencia opened 41 evacuation centers to be utilized should massive evacuation arises.
The Philippine Red Cross, Philippine Coast Guard, the army and rescue volunteers have been alerted for possible mobilization. Cesar Yamuta, DRRMC chief, and Alan Padilla of DRRMC operations center, have readied the equipment for rescue such as rubber boats, ambulance, ropes and other rescue equipment.
Hinaplanon Barangay Chairman Nick Echavez told Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro that the Mandulog River is being closely monitored.
Hinaplanon was the hardest hit barangay in Iligan after Sendong sent flashflood with thick mud and cut logs down Mandulog River that rammed houses and even destroyed the bridge.
Echavez said," We have prepared gongs in every purok, ropes, flashlights, food supplies, radio transceivers, medical team and vehicles for massive evacuation.
Echavez said the City Government aims at zero-casualty. (With Richel V. Umel)