More than 70,000 people, all wearing face masks and assisted by disaster officials clad in personal protective equipment, were evacuated as powerful typhoon Ambo lashed the Central Philippines before last weekend, killing five along its path in Eastern and Northern Samar, the government said Sunday.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council is still consolidating information on the damage and effects due to Ambo, which has since weakened to a tropical depression as it moved generally northeastward over the Bashi Channel, from different regions.
Some areas along Ambo’s path were plunged to pitch darkness following a power outage.
So far, NDRRMC received information that 40,980 people were affected by Ambo in six provinces of CALABARZON and Eastern Visayas where Ambo cut a swathe of destruction before the weekend.
NDRRMC spokesperson Mark Timbal said in an interview on Dobol B sa News TV, beamed nationwide, that measures in light of the coronavirus disease 2019 threat were observed during the evacuation.
Damage to agriculture is estimated to reach almost P80 million in CALABARZON, Eastern Visayas, Bicol, and Cordillera.
Timbal said local government units (LGUs) did not use as evacuation centers the facilities utilized for the isolation of COVID-19 cases, adding the number of families allowed to stay inside a room in evacuation centers were limited to up to three only.
Eastern Samar, which bore part of the brunt of Ambo’s fury, needs food, water, and housing materials, an area where thousands were displaced, and evacuation and quarantine facilities destroyed, with 47,000 families affected, Governor Ben Evardone said.
He said two residents died due to injuries, while two more died of shock.
In Northern Samar, one death was reported in Las Navas town, according to the Police Regional Office (PRO)-Eastern Visayas. Two were also injured in Mondragon.
Meanwhile, a military C-130 cargo plane arrived on Saturday afternoon at the Catarman airport in Northern Samar to bring the needed relief to Ambo’s victims.
The aircraft carried 1,100 family food packs from the Department of Social Welfare and Development as part of the augmentation support of DSWD in Region 7 and Region 8, according to 803rd Brigade civil-military officer Captain Ronald Aljas in a statement.
Nena Getalado, Social Welfare and Development team leader of DSWD for Northern Samar, said the total allocation for the province was 5,000 family food packs.
“We have received the first tranche and hopefully, tomorrow the Philippine Air Force will airlift our remaining allocation,” she said.
Each of the family food pack contains six kilos of rice, eight cans of corned beef or beef loaf, and six sachets of coffee which is enough for two days for a family with five members.
In an initial report from Rapid Damage Assessment and Needs Analysis teams in the province, 125,021 families or 367, 268 persons were affected while 5,261 families or 19,409 individuals were displaced and served inside 41 evacuation centers.
There were also 10,747 partially damaged houses reported with 2,545 totally damaged.
Earlier, Governor Edwin Ongchuan sent the six RDANA teams to the municipalities in order to have a quick “snapshot” of the disaster situation.
“Through this RDANA, we will be able to determine the immediate relief and response requirements, and we can easily identify the magnitude of this disaster,” Ongchuan said.
Ongchuan asked Northern Samar Electric Company (Norsamelco) and National Grid Corporation of the Philippines “to speed up restoration.”
In a report from NGCP, the loss of power in the province is due to toppled and leaning structures along Palanas Cara-Catarman-Allen-Lao-ang 69kV line.
In a statement, Bambi Capulong, NGCP information officer, said their restoration team already started their work on Saturday.
Norsamelco OIC-General Manager Edith Perfecto in a report said: “We have 69 total poles pulled down, 75 poles leaning but still usable, 23 total poles for replacement,” adding the cooperative had total estimated losses amounting P63.16 million due to the typhoon.
Engineer Mario Villena of Northern Samar First District Engineering Office said that as of Friday the Barangay Cagpanit-an - De Maria - San Jose road in Mondragon town was closed to all types of vehicles due to landslides.
As of Saturday afternoon, the towns with operational but limited cellular services were Catarman, Bobon, Lope de Vega, Mondragon, San Roque, Pambujan, San Antonio, San Isidro, San Vicente, Victoria, Biri, Allen, Capul, Lavezares, San Antonio, San Jose, and Rosario.
In Eastern Samar, which also bore Ambo’s devastating fury, some 14,727 houses were destroyed, apart from an undetermined number as yet in infrastructure.
All roads are already passable except in Jipapad town, according to Lt. Col. Ma. Bella Rentuaya, police regional spokesperson.
Meanwhile, the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) said Sunday power transmission operations in the Visayas were now back to normal after it completed the restoration of lines affected by Ambo.
NGCP said normalization of the Visayas grid came after the last two affected lines, the Palanas Cara-Catarman-Allen and Catarman-Lao-ang 69kV lines, were restored at 12:33PM and 12:51PM yesterday, respectively.
“Transmission services in other affected areas are now under normal operations. NGCP assures the public that it is continuously monitoring weather disturbances and is ready to activate its Overall Command Center should there be any threat to its transmission facilities,” it said.
NGCP earlier implemented the necessary preparations and precautions to minimize the impact of Typhoon Ambo on transmission operations and facilities.
NGCP is a privately owned corporation in charge of operating, maintaining, and developing the country’s state-owned power grid. Under a congressionally-granted 50-year franchise, the company has the right to operate and maintain the transmission system and related facilities.
At the same time, the National Electrification Administration (NEA) said damage assessment and power restoration efforts continued after Ambo disrupted distribution services in several provinces.
The NEA Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Department (DRRMD) has been monitoring the power situation in the Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon), Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, and Palawan), Bicol, and Eastern Visayas regions.
As of 3 p.m. Saturday, NEA DRRMD said power situation in the provinces of Camarines Sur, Albay, and Biliran had returned normal.
These provinces are under the coverage areas of the Camarines Sur I Electric Cooperative, Inc. (CASURECO I), Camarines Sur II Electric Cooperative, Inc. (CASURECO II), Camarines Sur III Electric Cooperative, Inc. (CASURECO III), Camarines Sur IV Electric Cooperative, Inc. (CASURECO IV), Albay Electric Cooperative, Inc. (ALECO), and Biliran Electric Cooperative, Inc. (BILECO).
Power restoration efforts are also on-going in the provinces of Quezon, Marinduque, Camarines Norte, Sorsogon, Masbate, Western Samar, Eastern Samar, and Northern Samar.
In Quezon, the Quezon I Electric Cooperative, Inc. (QUEZELCO I) said power has been partially restored in the municipalities of Gumaca, Lopez, Tagkawayan, Del Gallego, Atimonan, and Calauag. The Quezon II Electric Cooperative, Inc. (QUEZELCO II) said service is fully restored in Burdeos, Jomalig, Panukulan, Patnanungan, Pollilo, and Real while the towns of Infanta and General Nakar are still without power.
The Marinduque Electric Cooperative, Inc. (MARELCO) has fully restored power in the municipalities of Buenavista, Mogpog, Santa Cruz, and Torrijos, and partially restored in Boac and Gasan.
The Camarines Norte Electric Cooperative, Inc. (CANORECO) said electricity has been fully restored in Labo, Paracale, Basud, Daet, Mercedes, San Lorenzo Ruiz, San Vicente, Talisay, and Vinzons. Service has been partially restored in Capalonga, Jose Panganiban, and Sta. Elena.
In Sorsogon, the Sorsogon I Electric Cooperative, Inc. (SORECO I) has ongoing restoration works in the municipalities of Casiguran, Magallanes, Bulan, Bulusan, Irosin, Juban, Matnog, and Santa Magdalena. The Sorsogon II Electric Cooperative (SORECO II) has fully restored power in the City of Sorsogon, Pilar, Donsol, and Castilla.
Meanwhile, the Masbate Electric Cooperative, Inc. (MASELCO) reported power fully restored in 11 municipalities, and partially restored in Masbate City, Baleno, Aroroy, and Mandaon. The Ticao Island Electric Cooperative, Inc. (TISELCO) said efforts are ongoing to restore power in all its service areas.
In Western Samar, the Samar I Electric Cooperative, Inc. (SAMELCO I) has partially restored power in Calbayog City and seven municipalities while Santo Niño and Tagapul-an are still without electricity. The Samar II Electric Cooperative, Inc. (SAMELCO II) said service has been fully restored in six municipalities and partially restored in Catbalogan City and nine other towns.
The Eastern Samar Electric Cooperative, Inc. (ESAMELCO) reported that only nine municipalities under its franchise are with ongoing restoration activities. The Northern Samar Electric Cooperative, Inc. (NORSAMELCO) said all towns except the Municipality of Capul are still without power due to the unavailability of transmission lines.
Meanwhile, a fishermen’s group on Sunday asked the government to provide immediate assistance to farmers and fishermen hit by Ambo.
In a statement, the national fishers group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA) has called on the government to immediately help families affected and displaced by Ambo, which brought moderate to heavy rains in Bicol, Samar, and Southern Tagalog regions.
“Fisherfolk and farmer families were forced to vacate communities and seek shelter in evacuation areas.
“Local and national governments must be prepared in providing assistance to the affected families to ensure that the natural calamity will not worsen the socio-economic impacts of the pandemic,” said PAMALAKAYA National Chairperson Fernando Hicap.
Hicap also urged the Duterte administration to provide personal protective equipment and multivitamins to the affected families as part of health safety measures especially that they are exposed to risky evacuation centers.
“We call for a speedy government support in a form of economic subsidy and relief aid. Aside from relief goods containing basic necessities, the evacuees must also be provided with PPEs and adequate health services to protect them against any possible virus disease,” said Hicap.
At the same time, Agriculture Secretary William Dar had instructed all the Department of Agriculture’s Regional Executive Directors and operating units affected by Ambo to exercise and perform all standard operating procedures institutionalized during typhoons like this.