Aquino raps PAGASA at emergency briefing

Posted at 07/14/10 10:19 AM

President Benigno Aquino III meets National Disaster Coordinating Council members on response to effects of Tropical Storm 'Basyang' (Photo by Jay Morales/Malacanang Photo Bureau)

MANILA, Philippines - President Benigno Aquino III criticized the state weather bureau on Wednesday for not warning the residents of Metro Manila about a strong tropical storm that pummelled the nation's capital.

"This is not acceptable," Aquino told red-faced officials of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) at an emergency meeting of rescue agencies.

"We rely on you to tell us where the potential problems are."

Many of the city's 12 million residents went to bed late Tuesday having been lulled by forecasters' bulletins that Typhoon Basyang (international codename Conson) would hit the northern provinces instead of Manila.

However, the weather bureau failed to mention that the disturbance had a wide radius of 300 kilometers (185 miles), meaning that although the eye of the typhoon passed north of Manila, the city still suffered from fierce winds.

While there have been no reports of deaths, much of the capital suffered blackouts shortly before midnight (1600 GMT) Tuesday that continued into Wednesday morning.

Uprooted trees, power pylons and roofing sheets blocked roads early Wednesday.

Flights were suspended at Manila airport and schools were closed, even though the typhoon, packing winds of 120 kilometers an hour, blew out to the South China Sea.

"All the agencies have adequately met their responsibilities at this point in time but your information is sorely lacking. We have had this problem for quite a long time," Aquino said.

The ill-equipped Philippine weather service came in for criticism in September last year when it failed to warn the residents of Manila about the threat from Tropical Storm Ketsana, which killed 464 people.