Rainfall from Tropical Storm "Pepito" flooded parts of Luzon Tuesday evening, particularly in Quezon Province and Pampanga, forcing hundreds of residents to evacuate, authorities said.
In Pagalungan, Maguindanao, more than 10,000 residents were displaced by flash floods that hit the low-lying town.
“This is the worst flooding that I have experienced in my life here in Pagalungan,” Mayor Salik Mamasabulod said in an interview Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the state weather bureau said it was monitoring two storms outside the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR), with one of them possibly entering the country before the weekend.
Pepito (international name Saudel) strengthened into a severe tropical storm at 2 p.m. on Wednesday as it continued to make its way out of the PAR.
More than 5,000 families living in three provinces in Luzon were affected by the inclement weather, a ranking official of the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) said Wednesday.
But officials of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), however, said "no major untoward incident" has been reported so far, even as nine barangays in Nueva Ecija and Quezon's Lopez town were submerged in flash floods.
It also submerged 37 low-lying villages in the coastal towns of Pampanga, sending local disaster officials to warn affected families.
Pepito will continue to dampen most parts of Luzon, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said, as the storm exits the PAR on Thursday.
The continuous rains triggered by the tropical storm caused the rise of water level in Benguet Province's Binga Dam, prompting authorities to release water from the facility.
Local police in Lopez reported that some 1,000 vehicles were stranded along the town's national highway due to flooding as of 8 a.m., while landslides were reported in Sta. Ana Cagayan.
The landslides had since been cleared out and roads are now passable, according to NDRRMC spokesperson Mark Timbal.
"No casualties have been reported so far. We're hoping the LGUs preparation resulted in this," he said.
"The challenge here is those who command our COVID-19 response on the ground are also our emergency responders... Our evacuees should also be protected and physical distancing should still be observed," he added.
The Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office in Aurora, meanwhile, said the storm caused "minimal damage" but prompted the evacuation of some 177 families.
Casiguran, Aurora town mayor Ricaro Biton said a total of 183 individuals or 49 families were forced to evacuate in facilities and were separated from individuals that might be carrying the coronavirus in Casiguran town, Aurora, where Pepito made landfall on Tuesday evening.
Bitong said the evacuees are now on their way home, adding that the town is under modified general community quarantine and has zero coronavirus cases.
It was okay, Pepito did not hit us that hard, it made landfall around 9-10 p.m. but it was not that strong," he said, adding he has yet to receive reports on the damage to agriculture.
"It would have been a good harvest season," he said.
"Floodwaters in varying degrees, the deepest is two-feet, engulfed the villages in coastal towns mostly in the province fourth district," said Angie Blanco, the executive director of the Pampanga Provincial Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO), in her latest update.
Blanco said high tide aggravated the condition in the coastal areas of Pampanga — Masantol, Macabebe in the fourth district, and in Guagua and Sasmuan in the second district.
Masantol, Macabebe, and Sasmuan towns are situated near Pampanga River and its tributaries, being a catch basin of floodwater from upland of Nueva Ecija and Sierra Madre mountains.
In Dinalungan town, Mayor Manuel Torres said more than 100 individuals from coastal and river-side areas were also evacuated, while isolating suspected COVID-19 cases.
Assistant Secretary Casiano Monilla, OCD deputy administrator for operations, said 171 families from Cagayan were affected by "Pepito'', 168 in Isabela, and three in Quirino; all in Region 2.
Another 4,790 families were affected by the weather disturbance in Region IV-A, he added, without giving specifics or breakdowns on the affected provinces in the region.
Monilla added that the majority of the affected families were the ones evacuated pre-emptively by their disaster risk reduction management units and are now safe.
OCD administrator Ricardo Jalad said that he has directed all regional directors in the affected areas to look into families displaced by "Pepito" to determine whether the local government units are capable of helping them or need assistance from the national government.
In Maguindanao, the affected residents are now staying in temporary shelters along the national highway. Floods are recurring occurrence every time a heavy downpour spawned by a low-pressure area affects eastern Mindanao.
Pagalungan sits beside the Liguasan Marsh, a vast wetland encompassing the three provinces of Maguindanao, North Cotabato, and Sultan Kudarat. The marshland also serves as a catch basin of floodwaters from the Agusan and Kabacan rivers traversing the area.
Mayor Salik Mamasabulod said 11 of 12 barangays in Pagalungan have been underwater for the past four days.
“It’s not deep but the water did not recede quickly as compared to previous floods,” Mamasabulod said, adding that they need immediate flood control projects with the help of both regional and national government.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Aquatic Resources in the Bangsamoro Region in Muslim Mindanao reported that the floods have affected more than 200 hectares of land.
Pepito, the country's 16th storm this year, was last estimated 295 kilometers north northwest of Dagupan City, Pangasinan as of 4 p.m., packing maximum winds of up to 75 km per hour and gusts of up to 115 kph as it emerged over Lingayen Gulf.
The storm is forecast to leave the PAR on Thursday as it continues to move west-northwest at 30 kph.
PAGASA said the new weather system was estimated at 1,865 km east northeast of extreme Northern Luzon but remains unlikely to enter the PAR and instead is moving westward to Vietnam.
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