THE weather bureau raised public storm signal no. 5 for the first time Wednesday over Cagayan, Isabela, Kalinga and Apayao as Super Typhoon “Lawin” (international name: Haima) threatened to cut a path of death and destruction through Luzon.
The UN Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System said the super typhoon could have a “high humanitarian impact” and affect as many as 11.6 million people.
Forecaster Aldczar Aurelio of the weather bureau said Wednesday that even moderate rains brought by “Lawin” could trigger flash floods and landslides in rain-soaked parts of Luzon recently pounded by storm “Karen.”
Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration said provinces in the typhoon’s path must brace for “disaster.”
Aurelio said “Lawin” will continue to pound Luzon and to dump heavy, intense rain as storm signal no. 5 was raised over Cagayan, Isabela, Kalinga and Apayao.
“These areas will experience a disaster,” he said, as would Ilocos Norte, Abra, Ilocos Sur, Mt. Province, Ifugao and Calayaan Group of Islands, which were under storm signal no. 4.
Yolanda-like rainfall will pound the provinces under storm signal nos. 5 and 4, he added.
“Rains spawned by ‘Lawin’ may not equal or exceed the rainfall brought by tropical storm ‘Ondoy,’ but will be close to Ondoy-like rains,” he said.
Storm signal no. 3 was in effect over La Union, Benguet, Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino and Northern Aurora, while Batanes Group of Islands, Pangasinan, the rest of Aurora, Tarlac, Nueva Ecija, Northern Zambales and Northern Quezon, including Polillo Islands were placed under storm signal no. 2.
Storm signal no. 1 was raised over Metro Manila, the rest of Zambales, Bulacan, Bataan, Pampanga, Rizal, the rest of Quezon, Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Catanduanes and Albay.
The eye of “Lawin” was spotted at 275 kilometers east southeast of Tuguegarao City, Cagayan, packing maximum sustained winds of 225 kms per hour and gustiness of up to 315 kph.
“Lawin” was moving west northwest at 25 kph.
“The eye of the super typhoon is covering 800 kilometers of Luzon,” Aurelio said. “Expect power outages.”
Another forecaster, Gener Quitlong, said it was the first time that the weather bureau has raised storm signal no. 5.
Pagasa administrator Vicente Malano warned residents along the northern coastline of Northern Luzon of storm surges.
“Yolanda,” one of the strongest storms in the world to hit land, flattened Eastern Visayas and killed over 7,350 people in November 2013, while Ondoy, on Sept. 26, 2009, flooded Metro Manila and Luzon.
Authorities urged residents in coastal and mountainous areas in Northern and Central Luzon to evacuate, warning of giant storm surges and destructive winds.
“Lawin” was forecast to hit remote communities in the far north of the country about 11:00 p.m. on Wednesday, bringing winds almost on a par with “Yolanda” in 2013.
“It’s not just heavy rain and strong winds that we are expecting. It’s also floods, landslides and storm surges in coastal areas. Those in these areas, you are in danger. Find safer ground,” Allan Tabel, chief of the Interior Department’s disaster and information coordinating center, told a nationally televised briefing.
With “Lawin” having a weather band of 800 kilometers, more than 10 million people across the northern parts of the Philippines’ main island of Luzon will be affected, according to the government’s disaster risk management agency.
“Lawin” was approaching the Philippines with sustained winds of 225 kilometers an hour and gusts of 315 kilometers an hour, according to the state weather bureau.
Authorities warned coastal communities to expect storm surges of up to five meters (16 feet).
Nevertheless, the areas directly in the typhoon’s path are not densely populated and are well-drilled in storm preparations.
The Philippine islands are often the first major landmass to be hit by storms that generate over the Pacific Ocean. The Southeast Asian archipelago endures about 20 major storms each year, many of them deadly.
“If we talk about typhoons that entered the Philippines, this is the second strongest next to Yolanda,” government weather specialist Benison Estareja said.
“The difference is that [Lawin] has a higher track and will hit an area where people are more used to strong storms.”
“Lawin” was forecast to pass over Luzon on Thursday, then track towards southern Hong Kong and southern China.
It is the second typhoon to hit the northern Philippines in a week, after “Karen” claimed at least one life and left three people missing.
Thousands of families from several provinces especially those living along coastal and landslide- and flood-prone areas were preemptively evacuated hours before “Lawin” slammed in Northern Luzon before midnight Wednesday.
At a news briefing at Camp Aguinaldo, National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) Executive Director Ricardo Jalad said the evacuations were conducted in Cagayan, Isabela, Ilocos Norte, some parts of Ilocos Sir, Apayao, Kalinga, Abra, Ifugao, Mt. Province, La Union, and Pangasinan.
Disaster officials are on high alert in the coastal towns of Start. Ana, Gonzaga, Sta. Teresita, Buguey, Aparri, Ballesteros, Pamplona, Sanchez Mira, Claveria, and Sta. Praxedes, all in Cagayan.
The coastal towns of Dinapigue and Palanan are also under close watch.
“The preemptive evacuations are meant to keep our people safe and avoid casualties,” Jalad said.
Jalad, however, could not immediately give figures on the ongoing evacuations.
“They have to be evacuated especially those living in vulnerable areas,” he said.
Army chief Lt. Gen. Eduardo Ano has ordered the deployment of troops and rescue equipment under the operational command of the 5th Infantry Division in all areas where Lawin would ravage for quick delivery of relief goods and medical supplies.
The Philippine National Police has likewise made similar preparations.
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