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Bicol readies for ‘Karen’

LEGAZPI CITY (PNA) – Some 10 families or 50 persons living along river channels near Mount Bulusan in Irosin, Sorsogon were evacuated on Friday due to threats of possible lahar flows spawned by rains brought by tropical storm Karen, the Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (RDRRMC) said Friday.

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical, Services Administration (Pagasa) placed the Bicol provinces of Catanduanes under tropical cyclone warning signal (TCWS) number 2 and Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Albay and Sorsogon under TCWS signal number 1 due to Karen.

The evacuation was a preemptive and precautionary measure carried out at 7 a.m. Friday by the Irosin MDRRMC to keep villagers along river channels safe from flooding and lahar flows, according to Bernardo Alejandro, Office of Civil Defense (OCD)-Bicol director and RDRRMC chair.

He said some 360 passengers were stranded while 37 buses, trucks, cars and six sea vessels were put on hold in the ports of Tabaco in Albay; Virac, Catanduanes;and Pilar in Sorsogon.

The Philippine Coast Guard suspended sailing of all types of sea vessels following the hoisting of storm signals in the Bicol provinces.

Alejandro, quoting a PCG report, said as of 5 a.m. Friday, most of the stranded passengers were bound for Catanduanes while 134 passengers were bound for Samar and Leyte provinces.

Classes were suspended in all levels in Bicol’s six provinces, he said.

The OCD reactivated its Operation Center and placed it under “blue” alert status, which means disaster agencies and assets are on standby 24/7.

Alejandro said he issued a disaster bulletin to the six Provincial DRRMC’s to likewise be on blue alert and closely monitor the weather situation and immediately coordinate with the RDRRMC once the weather condition worsens.

Albay PDRRMC issued on Thursday an advisory to the 15 Municipal DRRMCs and three city DRRMCs to be on 24/7 alert for possible flooding, lahar flows and landslides.

Villagers living near Mt. Mayon were warned not to enter the six-kilometer designated Permanent Danger Zone. They were also advised not to cross swollen rivers should rain intensifies.