Wednesday, October 20, 2010

All systems ready for typhoon’s wrath

By William B Depasupil
The Manila Times, Monday, 18 October 2010

WITH lessons learned from past devastating typhoons, the national government, more than ever, is now well prepared and well-equipped for any eventuality once “Super Typhoon Juan” makes its expected landfall Monday in the northern Luzon area.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), headed by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, said Sunday that everything is now in place in Regions I and II and the Cordillera Autonomous Region, the areas that were expected to be hit directly by the incoming typhoon.

“The President’s [Benigno Aquino 3rd] instruction is zero casualty,” said Benito Ramos, the NDRRMC director and concurrent chairman of the Office of the Civil Defense.

“During the last three days, my regional directors in Regions I, II and the Cordillera were in close coordination with the local government units of Ilocos Region, Cordillera and Cagayan Valley.”

“They are all prepared. All systems go,” he added.

According to Ramos, pre-emptive evacuations have already been voluntarily made by residents in low-lying areas and in landslide prone places as early as Saturday, or two days before the expected landfall of Juan.

“They have learned their lessons from typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng. They are now listening and don’t wait anymore for the effort of the national government to evacuate them,” he said.

Ramos added that the designated evacuation centers have been identified in every towns and cities in close coordination with the Department of Social Welfare and Development, volunteer organizations and with well-equipped disaster response teams.

The Social Welfare department, Ramos disclosed, had already distributed 3,928 family food packs worth P2.28 million in Regions I, II and the CAR, and P46.10-million worth of non-food items. The agency also has a standby fund of P2.734 million.

Ramos said further that the entire force of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippines National Police have also been alerted to assist the local governments, down to the barangay level.

He added that the Department of Education has already declared the suspension of classes in all the affected regions following reports from the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa), that the typhoon has not deviated from its projected direction toward Cagayan Valley, Ilocos Region and Apayao.

Navy on standby
In a related development, the Philippine Navy spokesman, Lt. Col. Edgard Arevalo, said Sunday that the Navy’s Disaster Response Task Groups were already on standby alert at the Naval Forces Northern Luzon (NFNL) in La Union, and Naval Forces Southern Luzon (NFSL) in Legazpi City, Albay, and as well as the Fleet-Marine Ready Force (FMRF) task units in the Manila-Cavite areas.

The Philippine Navy’s DRTGs are on alert in preparation for the possible devastating effects of Juan.

According to Arevalo, all Navy ships and patrol boats were also on standby and ready to conduct rescue operations if the need arises.

“The Philippine Navy is continuously monitoring events in relation to Typhoon Juan,” he added.

Meanwhile, Ramos said that Gazmin has cancelled his trip to Cagayan province on Sunday because of bad weather caused by Juan.

“Hindi matuloy, nag-back out yung piloto ng Philippine Air Force dahil kumapal ang ulap dito sa may Caraballo mountain [The trip did not push through.
The pilot of the Philippine Air Force backed out because of the thick clouds at the mountain of Caraballo],” he added.

Gazmin was supposed to oversee the preparations being made in Cagayan to ensure that nothing has been left out.

Meanwhile, thousands of families in Northern Luzon were evacuated with Juan fast approaching Isabela and Cagayan.

“Residents along the river banks and coastal areas have left their homes. We opened four evacuation centers,” said Edna Junio, provincial social welfare development officer of Cagayan province.

Isabela getting ready
Preparations were also being made in Isabela where some 100,000 hectares of palay (unhusked rice) still to be harvested may be lost to the floods that Juan will bring.

As of Sunday afternoon, rains were starting to fall in parts of northern Isabela. The flood prone areas in the province include the entire northern coastal stretch from Santa Ana to Santa Praxedes, which are all along the Cagayan River and the Pacific coast.

In Isabela, full alert had been raised for all towns along the Cagayan and Magat rivers including the capital of Ilagan, while the same was raised in Nueva Vizcaya for towns along the Magat River or for towns along the Cagayan River in Quirino province.

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