Filipinos gear up for stormy Christmas

SLOWING down yet gaining strength rapidly on the country’s eastern seaboard, Typhoon ‘‘Nina’’ will pour its fury on Catanduanes on Christmas Day and Metro Manila and its environs by Monday.

The state weather bureau Pagasa said Saturday that Nina (international name Nock-ten) intensified further but slowed a bit to 15 kph as it headed west northwest, with the capital squarely in its sights.

The US Joint Typhoon Warning Center said Nock-ten will be packing winds of 222 kph when it hits Catanduanes late on Christmas Day. In an earlier forecast, Pagasa said Nina, with maximum winds of up to 150 kph and gustiness of up to 185 kph, will bring heavy rain and storm-surge flooding as it barrels across Luzon.

Typhoon ‘‘Nina’’ (Manny Palmero)
On Saturday, the typhoon was spotted 480 kms east of Virac, Catanduanes, and will make landfall over the province in the afternoon of December 25, Pagasa said. 

A high-pressure area was pushing the typhoon along its northward track, making sea travel risky over the eastern seaboard of Central and Southern Luzon and the Visayas and across the shores of Northern Luzon, the weather bureau added.

Tropical storm Signal No. 1 is already up over Southern Quezon, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Catanduanes, Albay, Sorsogon and Masbate, including Ticao and Burias islands, and Samar.

The Philippines hasn’t been hit by a storm on Christmas in recent memory, but Nina could be at least as strong as a Category 2 hurricane and bring as much as 10 inches of rain, leading to flooding and mudslides, state forecasters said.

There is a chance for the typhoon to weaken as it interacts with the Bicol region’s landmass, PAGASA said, but authorities were not taking any chances. They urged hundreds of thousands of people to evacuate their homes on Saturday.

“We issued an advisory to local government units this morning to conduct preemptive evacuations,” Rachel Miranda, spokeswoman for the civil defense office in the Bicol region that includes Catanduanes, told AFP.

Bicol, an agricultural region of 5.5 million people, is often the first area to be hit by the 20 or so storms and typhoons that pound the archipelago each year.

The most powerful and deadliest was Haiyan—locally known as Typhoon ‘‘Yolanda’’—which left 7,350 people dead or missing and destroyed entire towns in heavily populated areas of the central Philippines in November 2013.

Local broadcaster ABS-CBN showed footage Saturday of long lines of trucks, cars and vehicles stranded at Bicol ports after the coastguard shut down ferry crossings to nearby islands as a precaution.

The action prevented thousands of people from returning to their hometowns for the Christmas weekend, it said.

Cedric Daep, civil defense chief for the Bicol province of Albay, told AFP at least 400,000 people in that region alone needed to be evacuated.

“Our evacuation centers will not be able to accommodate all of them,” he said. Others were being asked to stay with relatives or friends.

“We are requesting vehicle support” from other government agencies to move people to safety, Daep added.

In Legaspi City, Albay’s capital, the Office of Civil Defense in Bicol, said on Friday disaster councils across the region were on “blue alert” and had preemptive measures prepared for Nina’s landing.

Since Wednesday,  all provincial disaster management councils were put on high alert for the worsening weather situation, said Bernardo Rafael Alejandro, OCD-Bicol director and concurrent Bicol Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (RDRRMC) chairperson.

On Thursday, disaster councils in Bicol were placed on “preparedness mode,” which means all national and local DRRMCs should be ready for activation and deployment, Alejandro said.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development reported that 20,256 food packs and thousands of non-food items such as “malong” (tube skirts), laminated sacks, plastic mats, mosquito nets and blankets were prepared for prepositioning and distribution to local government units.

DSWD also made available hundreds of NFA rice sacks, canned goods, and a P3.1-million standby fund.

All government hospitals were placed under code white alert (preparedness mode), while the Department of Health Operation Center is on 24/7 operation.

Alejandro said the no-sailing policy for sea vessels was already being enforced with Pagasa raising the storm warning in Bicol. With AFP

Topics: Typhoon ‘‘Nina’’ , stormy Christmas , Catanduanes , Metro Manila , Pagasa
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