By Aaron B. Recuenco
Manila, Philippines – From the flurry of landslides in the north and the gush of floodwaters in central and southern part, typhoon “Pedring” wrought a trail of destruction in Luzon that has so far killed 35 people and damaged agriculture, fisheries and infrastructure worth more than P1 billion.
As this developed, Undersecretary Benito Ramos, executive director of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), said they are bracing for the second salvo of heavy rains and strong winds with the entry of tropical storm “Quiel” (international name: Nalgae).
“We have not lowered our alert level, the preparations we made for ‘Pedring’ will be continued in anticipation of this new weather disturbance,” said Ramos.
Ramos said Quiel already entered the country’s area of responsibility but said it was still too far to cause adverse effects in any part of the country.
In the latest NDRRMC report, Ramos said a total of 17 bridges and 44 road sections were still not passable in six regions in Luzon, mostly in several areas in central Luzon and other provinces in the Cordillera Administrative Region.
Since “Pedring” entered the country on September 24, nearly 500,000 persons from various parts of the country were affected with Ramos saying that about 36,000 families or 168,000 people remain in evacuation centers.
“The initial cost of damages to properties amounted to P1.147 billion, broken down as follows: P1.027 billion in agriculture and P120 million in infrastructure,” said Ramos.
Based on the NDRRMC report, some 6,311 houses were destroyed across the country, mostly due to flooding, landslides and storm surges in coastal parts of the country.
DEATH TOLL RISES
So far, a total of 35 people were confirmed dead across the country. The highest number of fatalities was in Central Luzon with 12, followed by the National Capital Region with seven.
The MIMAROPA (Mindoro provinces, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan) had five, Cagayan Valley region, three, while two fatalities each were listed in Ilocos Region, CALABARZON, Bicol and Cordillera Administrative Region.
The NDRRMC report, however, did not include yet the two children who were buried in a landslide in Ifugao.
Ramos said 45 were still missing.
Ramos admitted that “zero casualty” goal in every disaster would never be achieved for as long as Filipinos would not change their attitude toward natural disasters.
He cited, for instance, several fishermen who would still sail in spite of repeated warnings from the government and media.
Ramos said “Quiel” would likely target the northern part of Luzon anew and it is this area where their intense preparations are being concentrated.
“We have already started pre-positioning food items and rescue teams and equipment in the likely affected areas,” said Ramos.
“Preemptive evacuation will certainly be implemented and those who were evacuated to safer grounds will be advised to remain in designated evacuation centers,” he added.
Banking on the information being fed by the government’s weather bureau, Ramos said their preparation extends down from Cordillera down to Metro Manila.
PAGASA forecaster Gener Quitlong said Quiel entered the country’s vicinity early yesterday morning and would likely make landfall over Cagayan-Isabela area by Sunday or Monday.
The weather disturbance was still hovering over the Pacific Ocean yesterday and might still gather strength and intensify into a typhoon before it hits the landmass of Northern Luzon, Quitlong noted.
“Quiel” was forecast to move slowly westward at 10 kilometers per hour (kph).
As of 5 a.m. yesterday, Quiel was located 1,240 kilometers east of Aparri, Cagayan with maximum sustained winds of 105 kph near the center and gustiness of up to 135 kph.
Quitlong explained that a high-pressure area (HPA) near China was pushing the storm downwards and was slowing it down.
Due to the HPA’s effect on “Quiel”, it was still possible that the cyclone would change its track and might affect Metro Manila, he pointed out. (With a report from Ellalyn B. De Vera)