Nearly a million people were evacuated from their homes Saturday as the most powerful typhoon of the year so far barreled toward Bicol region, prompting the state weather bureau to raise the rare Signal Number 4 over Catanduanes, eastern portion of Camarines Sur, and northern Albay.
Metro Manila is squarely in the path of Typhoon Rolly which is poised to make landfall over Catanduanes province early Sunday morning.
In its 11 p.m. update yesterday, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration said Bicol region felt the first violent winds and intense to torrential rainfall of Typhoon Rolly (international name Goni) late Saturday night.
The weather agency said Rolly was just 185 kilometers east of Virac, Catanduanes, as the storm moved west southwest at 25 km/h. Forecasters expect it to make landfall at or near its current peak intensity over Camarines Norte and Sur provinces and over mainland Quezon province by Sunday afternoon.
Signal No. 4 was raised for the first time in decades over the island province of Catanduanes, the eastern portion of Camarines Sur (including Iriga City and the towns of Buhi, Baao, Pili, Naga City, Bombon, Calabanga, Ocampo, Sagnay, Tigaon, Goa, Tinambac, Siruma, Lagonoy, Garchitorena, San Jose, Presentacion, Caramoan), and the northern portion of Albay (Tiwi, Polangui, Malinao, Tabaco City, Malilipot, Bacacay, Rapu-Rapu).
Signal No. 3 remained over Camarines Norte, the rest of Camarines Sur and Albay, Burias and Ticao Islands, Sorsogon, Quezon, Laguna, Rizal, the eastern portion of Batangas including Batangas City and Tanauan City, Marinduque, the northern portion of Oriental Mindoro (Puerto Galera, San Teodoro, Baco, Calapan City, Naujan, Victoria, Pola, Socorro, Pinamalayan), and the northern portion of Romblon (Concepcion, Banton, Corcuera).
Metro Manila is squarely in the path of Rolly, with Signal No. 2 raised in the National Capital Region, most of Central and Southern Luzon, and Samar, Eastern Samar, Antique, and Aklan. The rest of Luzon and Visayas were under Signal No. 1.
Strong, but smaller in diameter than Yolanda
PAGASA forecasters said Rolly is deemed strong but its diameter is smaller than the destructive Typhoon Yolanda, which killed over 6,000 people when it battered several parts of the country in 2013.
This means Rolly will affect fewer areas than Yolanda, with its violent winds and heavy rainfall to be mostly felt on areas along its path.
It is classified as a category 5 storm by world meteorologists.
Another incoming storm
In addition, PAGASA was also tracking the international storm “Atsani,” which would be named “Siony” once it enters the Philippine area of responsibility.
Atsani is a much weaker storm, with speeds of 55 km/h near the center.
It was still 1,655 km east of Luzon outside PAR, moving northwest at 25 km/h.
Storm surges, volcanic mud flows
PAGASA said there was a high risk of storm surge of more than three meters (nine feet) over the northern coastal areas of Quezon including Polillo Islands, Camarines Provinces, and Catanduanes.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) had warned of storm surges of 2.1 to 3 meters high (six to nine feet) in the coasts of Manila, Cavite, Bulacan, Pampanga, Bataan, Batangas, and Quezon in text alerts it sent across the country.
“It looks like we will have really strong winds, increasing the chances of widespread flooding and landslides,” Mark Timbal, spokesman for the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, said in a media interview.
“Storm surges are imminent on our east coast. We are monitoring Mayon and Taal volcanoes for possible volcanic mud flows.”
NDRRMC Director Ricardo Jalad Rolly would be the “strongest storm to hit since Typhoon Yolanda.”
Stay calm, vigilant
Malacañang appealed to the public to “stay calm yet vigilant” as Rolly stormed closer.
“We ask the public, especially the residents of potential areas that will be affected by the typhoon to stay calm yet vigilant, check the latest government weather advisory, listen to the radio or watch television for more information, secure their house and vehicle, and keep their family members and loved ones dry and safe,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement.
Authorities spent Saturday marshalling rescue vehicles, emergency response teams and relief goods ahead of the typhoon.
COVID-19 complicates evacuations
Schools which have been empty since the start of the coronavirus pandemic are being used as emergency shelters as well as government-run evacuation centres and gymnasiums.
“Evacuating people is more difficult at this time because of COVID-19,” Bicol regional civil defense spokesman Alexis Naz told AFP.
Mary Ann Echague, 23, and her family fled their home in the coastal city of Legazpi in Bicol to an inland primary school where they were sheltering in a classroom with several other families.
“We fear the wrath of the typhoon,” said Echague, who was with her two children, parents, and siblings. They had carried with them a portable stove, tinned meat, instant noodles, coffee, bread, blankets, and pillows.
“Each time we’re hit by a typhoon our house gets damaged, since it’s made of wood and galvanised iron roofing,” she said.
“We have always managed. We find a way to get by.” With AFP
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