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Thursday, July 25, 2024

Superstorm to linger for 5 days

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Cagayan, Batanes brace for ‘Betty,’ typhoon in PAR until Wednesday

READY FOR ‘BETTY’. A fishermen in Parañaque City lashes his boat to a bamboo raft to prepare for the coming of Super Typhoon Mawar or Betty, which showed a fearsome eye in photographs by the Joint Typhoon Warning Center on Friday. The state weather bureau’s forecast track has the storm lingering in the Philippine Area of Responsibility until Wednesday (inset). Norman Cruz

The country’s northernmost provinces are bracing for the world’s strongest storm this year as Super Typhoon Mawar—named “Betty”locally —entered the Philippine Area of Responsibility early Saturday morning and is forecast to linger in this zone for five days or until Wednesday next week.

Although it is not projected to make landfall on the Philippines, at its closest point the storm could lash Cagayan and Batanes with gale-force winds of up to 220 kilometers per hour and torrential rains, state weather bureau forecasters said Friday.

Betty/Mawar would still be in the PAR at typhoon strength by Wednesday morning, the track and intensity forecast of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administrationadded, even as it moves westward over the Philippine Sea.

Tropical Cyclone Wind Signal (TCWS) No. 3 would be hoisted overBatanes as Betty is forecast to be within be 250 km of the province and the Babuyan Islands by Sunday morning while it barrels its way toward Taiwan and possibly Japan.

After a rapid intensification, Mawar became the most powerful storm of2023 globally, according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Centre (JTWC).

Its intensification in waters east of the Philippines came after abrief weakening as it passed by Guam on Wednesday, lashing the US island with heavy rains and winds that uprooted trees and blew awayroofs and cars.

According to the Guam Power Authority, nearly all the island’s 52,000homes and businesses experienced power outages, with only 1,000 retaining electricity. There were no reports of loss of life, butextensive damage was reported, alongside localized flooding, fallen debris, and downed power lines.

Its strong to typhoon-force winds extend outwards up to 550 km from its eye or center, PAGASA said.

In its 10 p.m. thunderstorm advisory Friday, PAGASA said Metro Manila, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija and Tarlac would experience moderate to heavy rain showers with lighting and strong winds owing to Betty’s influence on the southwest monsoon or “habagat.”

These conditions were already being experienced in Zambales, Bataan, and Pampanga provinces last night, the state weather bureau added.

Fishermen in Cagayan no longer went out to sea as a precaution on Friday as the province was expected to raise its red alert last night. Ten towns had been classified as areas of concern by the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO).

In Batanes, Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office head MarvinPama said the town of Ivana has activated its evacuation center to accommodate evacuees from high-risk communities.

PAGASA weather specialist Ana Clauren said the hoisting of TCWS may begin today in anticipation of severe winds.

Strong to storm-force conditions may be experienced over extreme Northern Luzon, while strong to gale-force conditions are possible in the northern and eastern portions of the mainland of Northern Luzon,she said.

Clauren said Betty may enhance the southwest monsoon that could trigger rains over the western portion of Central and Southern Luzon and the Visayas beginning Sunday or Monday.

She urged the public to coordinate precautionary measures with the local government because the moderate to heavy rains may trigger flash floods or landslides.

Mawar is the strongest storm to enter the country this year, but is weaker than Yolanda, which killed more than 6,000 people in 2013.

While Yolanda packed maximum sustained winds of 235 kilometers perhour, Mawar is likely to move at a slower pace, with maximum sustained winds of 175 kph, said Jun Galang, PAGASA weather division chief.

Galang warned, however, that Mawar can still be dangerous.

“If a typhoon is fast, its impact on land is stronger. If it’s slower, it will bring more rain. Fast or slow, they’re both dangerous,” he said in Filipino.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said local government units (LGUs)should lead response efforts but assured them that the national government will be ready to assist in areas that will be affected by the super typhoon.

“We have already warned the LGUs to prepare in case of heavy rains and flooding. What we do is we leave it to the LGUs right now to make the call on what they will do,” Mr. Marcos said in an interview with reporters in Manila.

“What we’re saying is the national government is here to assist. We are in constant contact with the local governments, so we’ll see what the situation is in their place,” the President said.

Mr. Marcos said the government has been preparing for the onslaught of super typhoon Mawar, saying it had a different strategy since thetyphoon will also pull the southwest monsoon, which may cause heavy rain even in the Visayas and Mindanao.

“It’s a little different from the usual situation where the typhoon passes and that’s all we worry about,” he said.

“The typhoon is strong. It’s pulling weather patterns, entering here in the Philippines. So that’s what we are looking out for,” he added.

President Marcos earlier said he had discussions with Defenseofficer-in-charge Carlito Galvez about positioning funds, food packs and response teams in areas that will directly be affected by Mawar.

Budget Secretary Amenah Pangandaman, meanwhile, announced the availability of the P18.3 billion disaster relief fund to support the government’s rescue and relief operations.

The latest data showed that the government still has some P18.3 billion in its calamity fund, including the P1.5 billion carryover from last year’s budget, that can be used for various disaster relief operations until the end of 2023.

From January 2023 to date, calamity fund releases amounted to about P3.9 billion.

“Our government is prepared,” Pangandaman said in a statement.

After the typhoon, if necessary, agencies may tap into the availableNational Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund (NDRRMF) under the FY 2023 General Appropriations Act upon completion of damage assessment and recommendation by the National Disaster Risk Reductionand Management Council (NDRRMC) and following the approval of the President.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines said it has alerted all its search, rescue, and retrieval units in anticipation of Mawar’s arrival.

In a statement released on Friday, the AFP said that all unified commands and major services are placed on alert for humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HADR) operations in areas expected to be hit by Mawar.

A total of 12,000 personnel including reservists are deployed as first responders. Additional troops and assets will be committed when necessary.

Meanwhile, vehicles and officers are being prepared to assist in the mandatory evacuation of residents in vulnerable areas.

Meanwhile, vehicles and officers are being prepared to assist in the mandatory evacuation of residents in vulnerable areas.

More than 2,800 land transportation, air, and water assets are on standby for deployment for future aerial assessment, transport, and evacuation operations.

The Philippine National Police, on the other hand, has deployed about 22,000 policemen who are trained to handle search, rescue, and retrieval operations.

PNP Public Information Office Chief PBGen. Redrico Maranan said the PNP has activated its disaster incident management task group to aid the public with the possible threat of the super typhoon.

He said the PNP chief Gen. Benjamin Acorda directed his troops to assure swift action to those in need of help.

The National Capital Region Police Office on Friday prepared at least 700 contingent personnel as a “Search, Rescue and Retrieval and Reserved Standby Support Force” in Metro Manila.

The NCRPO, according to its chief Brig. Gen. Edgar Alan Okubo, is now coordinating with local government units under its jurisdiction and Barangay Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Councils.

“We are prepared to render disaster response should the need arise. But still, we are hoping that we will be spared from the ill effects of this calamity,” he said following the inspection of rescue vehicles and other life-saving equipment of the NCRPO.

In other developments:

* The Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) assured its customers that its personnel are ready to respond to power outages that may result from Mawar. “As a 24–hour service company, we are ready to respond to these types of emergencies. Our crews are on standby to attend to any trouble that may affect our facilities in areas that may be hit by the typhoon,” Meralco vice president and head of corporate communications Joe R. Zaldarriaga said.

* The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) has directed all telecommunication companies to speed up the repair and restoration of services in areas that will be severely affected by Mawar. The commission’s memorandum ordered all public telecommunication companies to ensure that there are sufficient technical and support personnel and standby generators will extra fuel, tools and spare equipment in the areas forecast to be affected by the typhoon.

* The Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) assured that its members and pensioners who will be affected by the typhoon can avail of the state pension fund’s emergency loan program. In a statement, GSIS President and General Manager Wick Veloso said they will ensure that the loan assistance will be available to all qualified active members and old-age and disability pensioners based in areas that may be adversely affected by the fast-approaching typhoon. — With Macon Ramos-Araneta

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