MORE than 700,000 people, or almost 154,000 families, were affected by Tropical Storm “Mario” as the death toll rose to seven, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council reported on Saturday.
The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration said TS Mario (international name: Fung-Wong) was 137 km northwest of Laoag City at 4 a.m. Saturday and was heading north toward Taiwan and Japan.
But it is still expected to bring stormy weather and very rough seas in Northern Luzon and the weather bureau was concerned over moderate to intense rainfall, amounting to 7 to 20 mm per hour, which may cause landslides and flash floods.
President Benigno Aquino III, meanwhile, said during a press briefing in Berlin, where he is on official visit, that he is aware of the impact of TS Mario because of the frequent updates of Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Jr. during and after the storm.
Ochoa and several other Cabinet members are expected to inspect affected areas and assess the condition of the typhoon victims.
“Right now, I know they are going around with NDRRMC Executive Director Alexander Pama to inspect affected area and see what is needed to help local governments,” said deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte.
Aside from Ochoa and Pama, also expected to join the inspection team are Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman, Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson, Metro Manila Development Authority Chairman Francis Tolentino and Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda.
“We wish to assure our countrymen that members of President Aquino’s official family who are here in the Philippines continue to work and carry out the instructions of President Aquino for our flood-stricken countrymen,” Valte said.
Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle and other bishops of the Catholic church also urged the faithful to pray for those who were affected by TS Mario.
“We pray that you are all safe from all harm. This is also a call to our entire nation to join hands in helping those who were devastated by the storm and the monsoon,” Tagle said during mass on Saturday.
The mass was part of the “Walk for Climate” program of the Archdiocese of Manila but was canceled due to intense rain brought by the Southwest monsoon and Mario.
“It is also good to remember during mass our brothers and sisters who are now experiencing the effects of the storm and the change in climate. Let this serve as a call for us to help our siblings in need, even if there is no storm,” Tagle later said in an interview on Radio Veritas.
Tagle also said that the Catholic church is willing to help those who were affected by Mario through Caritas Manila and Diocesan Social Action Centers in their respective areas.
Pagasa said TS Mario itself was weaker than many less devastating stopes, but it enhanced the southwest monsoon and dumped three weeks’ worth of rain on the metropolis on Friday, resulting in widespread flooding in Metro Manila.
Pama said in Situation Report No. 4 that a total of 710,120 people (153,976 families) were affected, 205,304 (45,004 families) of whom were in 404 evacuation centers.
“[But] generally, the floods have already subsided. People are starting to return to their homes,” Pama said in a news briefing Saturday morning.
Nonetheless, states of calamity have been declared in the Metro Manila cities of Marikina and Cainta, Dagupan City in Pangasinan, the province of Ilocos Norte and the town of Narvacan in Ilocos Sur.
Pama said there were still 11 areas in Luzon that still did not have power as of Saturday, mainly as a precautionary measure against electrocutions. There were three incidents of electrocution in Metro Manila on Friday, two of them were fatal.
The National Grid Corporation of the Philippines also reported several lines tripping early Saturday morning causing power outages in the four provinces from Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union and Pangasinan.
Power outages were also reported in the towns of San Esteban, Narvacan, San Ildefonso, Sto Domingo, Magsingal, San Juan, Cabugao, Sinait and parts of Bantay, Ilocos Sur.
The storm itself continued to cause rain in northern Luzon on Saturday even as officials assessed the extent of the damage.
Ilocos Norte Planning and Development Officer Pedro Agcaoili said initial reports placed damage to crops and infrastructures at least P24 million.
The Department of Public Works and Highways on Saturday placed the damage to roads alone at close to P100 million.
Based on a partial report at 2 p.m. Saturday, the DPWH Bureau of Maintenance said a total of P91.10 million worth of roads were damaged by the storm.
The biggest damage was recorded in Region III at P56.60 million, followed by Cordillera Administrative Region at P31.50 million, and Region I at P3 million.
On the other hand, the DPWH reported that 26 road sections are still closed to traffic after being damaged, but the department has already deployed crews for declogging and installation of warning signs in flooded road sections.
But many of the main roads in Northern Luzon remained unpassable on Saturday with roads along the Manila North Road in the four provinces of Region 1 making them impassable to all types of motor vehicles.
The Department of Public Works and Highways in the Ilocos reported that the junction of Narvacan town in Ilocos Sur is not passable to all types of vehicle while some portions of Sta Maria town and Candon City were also underwater and not passable to light vehicles.
In Ilocos Norte, floodwaters submerged bridges in Barangay Pansian in Pagudpud town and in Adams town. Power lines were also down in all towns.
In La Union, a section of Luna and Bangar towns went underwater and not passable to small type of vehicles.
Esperanza Tinaza, DPWH regional information officer, said a section of the Ribsuan Bridge along the Bauang town to Baguio City road was passable only to six-wheeler vehicles.
In Pangasinan, a section of the Urdaneta and Dagupan road was also underwater and passable to light vehicles.
“The DPWH maintenance crew continues to conduct clearing operation of road networks. Warning signs have been installed,” Tinaza said. With PNA
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