Evacuations start as Typhoon Pepeng moves nearer Luzon, Philippines ( Manila )


MANILA – Hundreds of residents have been evacuated from areas that could be hit by "supertyphoon" Pepeng (international codename Parma), which was expected to make landfall in Aurora province by mid-morning or noon on Saturday.

Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro announced in a briefing on Friday morning that the provincial disaster coordinating council in Pampanga and Bulacan have already conducted "preemptive" evacuations while the whole of Central Luzon has assured preparedness for the typhoon.

Teodoro said Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon), where several areas were still flooded due to heavy rains brought on by typhoon Ondoy (international codename Ketsana), have also pinpointed possible additional evacuation areas in case they are also hit by Pepeng.

He said Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, Palawan) has also prepared evacuation centers.

An ABS-CBN News report said local authorities in Camarines Norte worked overnight to evacuate residents living in critical areas to safer grounds.

The defense chief, who concurrently heads the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC), clarified that preemptive is different from forced evacuation.

He said only children and disabled, old and sickly people in areas living in critical areas will be forcibly evacuated from their homes ahead of Pepeng. He said "able" people, who would prefer to stay in their homes during the storm’s onslaught, will not be forced to evacuate.

Teodoro, however, said that those who would refuse to be evacuated should not ask for rescue.

"Kapag hindi nagpa-evacuate, huwag umasa na gagawin ang risk of life para ma-rescue sila," he said, adding that the government would not allow the relief operations to be diverted for rescue operations for those who refused to be evacuated.

The NDCC has yet to come up with a report of the total number of people who have been covered by the preemptive evacuation for typhoon Pepeng.

Landfall in Aurora

Weather bureau Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services (PAGASA) said Pepeng, which was expected to turn into a supertyphoon, is more likely to make landfall in Aurora province by mid-morning or noon on Saturday.

It said that after its landfall in Aurora, the typhoon will cross northern Luzon and exit the region through Ilocos Norte.

Aurora Gov. Bella Angara-Castillo told ANC’s News@8 that the provincial government has already prepositioned relief goods, medicine and rescue equipment in critical areas, including Baler and Casiguran towns.

Castillo said they have also designated several school buildings in the province that can be used as evacuation centers.

She added that the provincial engineering office and the local office of the Department of Public Works and Highways have also bee alerted.

The governor, meanwhile, said they would need more rubber boats for the rescue of the province’s coastal villagers.

"The number of rescue boats we have in case a big typhoon will occur would not be enough. Aurora has one of the longest coastline in the country," she said.

Castillo added that the provincial board has already met and is prepared to declare a state of calamity in case Pepeng devastates the province.

The weather bureau is also anticipating that the typhoon will affect areas that have already been devastated by typhoon Ondoy, including the areas of Rizal, Metro Manila, Bulacan, Pampanga, Zambales and a large part of Calabarzon.

As of 5 a.m., Pepeng was located 270 kilometers east of Virac town, Catanduanes province. It was moving west northwest at 19 kph, packing maximum sustained winds of 195 kilometers per hour and gustiness of up to 230 kph.

PAGASA has hoisted Signal No. 2 over Catanduanes, Camarines Norte, northern Quezon, Aurora and Polillo Islands.

Signal No. 1 has been placed in Ondoy-stricken areas, including the southern part of Quezon, Rizal, Bulacan and Pampanga.

Other areas under the Signal No. 1 were Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Abra, Apayao, Kalinga, Cagayan, Babuyan Islands, Isabela, Mt. Province, Ifugao, Benguet, La Union, Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino, Pangasinan, Nueva Ecija, Tarlac, Zambales, Camarines Sur, Albay, Sorsogon, Burias Island, and Northern Samar.

The weather bureau is also preparing to include Metro Manila in the list of areas under storm alert signals.

It said the capital region may experience heavy rains on Friday and Saturday, and aggravate floods that have not receded in the southern part of the metropolis.

Its forecasters also cited the possibility of raising Signal No. 4 as they expect Pepeng to hit supertyphoon status before it makes landfall on Saturday.

Ondoy death toll climbs

Glenn Rabonza, director of the Office of Civil Defense (OCD), said a total of 293 people have been confirmed killed during Ondoy’s onslaught on Saturday while 42 people remained missing.

Rabonza said the number of people staying in evacuation centers has decreased to 419,000 as people start to return to their homes. He said more than 2 million people were affected by the storm.

The storm’s cost of damages has reached P5 billion (P1.885 in infrastructure and P3.2 billion in agriculture), the OCD chief said.

Teodoro said relief operations for the victims of Ondoy will continue even as the government was on high alert in preparation for Pepeng.

as of 10/02/2009 10:26 AM