Cagayan folk flee ahead of typhoon ‘Juan’

Posted at 10/17/2010 9:42 PM | Updated as of 10/17/2010 9:43 PM

TUGUEGARAO CITY, Philippines - Residents of low-lying areas in Cagayan Valley have fled for higher ground as typhoon Juan (international name Megi) approaches the province.

They voluntarily left their homes starting Saturday, a day before local government agencies were scheduled to lead evacuation efforts, according to Benito Ramos, executive officer of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council. 

Ramos, the concurrent administrator of the Office of Civil Defense, said the voluntary evacuation of the residents, particularly those along the Cagayan river, are still ongoing as of press time. He said many people went to their relatives living in higher grounds.

However, he did not give a total number of the people who evacuated.  "We cannot give a count because it’s ongoing… We cannot quantify as of now because they are still evacuation is continuing," he said.

He said the residents have learned their lessons from typhoon Pepeng that caused massive flooding in the region last year.

"They are now on the higher ground and did not wait for government [to evacuate them]," he said. "This is the lesson taught to us by nature. That is why we are having no problem in evacuating now." 

Ramos said the government will not be responsible to those who will refuse to heed the call of the authorities to evacuate from the risk areas.

"That will not be our responsibility…If they do not evacuate, that will not be our fault," he said, adding they will not forcibly evacuate the residents. He said Army soldiers have been going to the barangays to inform the residents of the coming typhoon.

Juan is expected to make landfall over Cagayan Valley on Monday morning.

Signal number 4 over Cagayan, Isabela

The typhoon has further intensified, with public storm warning signal number 4 raised over Cagayan and Isabela provinces, according to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration. 

As of 6:00 p.m. Sunday, the typhoon was located 360 kilometers east of Aparri, Cagayan, and is moving westward at 22 kilometers per hour (kph). 

It has maximum sustained winds of 225 kph near the center and gustiness of up to 260 kph.

For more 'Juan' updates, go to the Weather section 

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, chair of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Center (NDRRMC), presided a meeting Sunday among representatives of various government agencies to check their preparations for the typhoon.

Gazmin initially planned to fly to Cagayan Sunday to check on the preparations for the typhoon but Ramos said the plan was aborted as weather in the area went bad. 

Ramos said the NDRRMC and its attached agencies are "all systems go" for the typhoon. He is expecting fewer casualties in the typhoon compared to previous years. 

PNP, AFP on full alert

Philippine National  Police (PNP) spokesman Senior Superintendent Agrimero Cruz, meanwhile, said the PNP has been placed on high alert. 

"We are on full alert nationwide and our equipment are now prepositioned in Northern Luzon," he said. 

Special Action Force and Maritime Group personnel are also on standby in Metro Manila to render possible assistance.

Armed Forces spokesman Brigadier General Jose Mabanta said military troops have been deployed in Northern Luzon as part of their preparations for the typhoon. 

Navy spokesman Lt. Col. Edgard Arevalo said: "The Philippine Navy is continuously monitoring events in relation to typhoon Juan. Its rescue teams are prepared to help residents and local government units. It enjoins everyone to be vigilant and cooperate with local officials to ensure their safety."

Emergency supplies

Ramos said the Department of Social Welfare and Development has stored food and non-food items for the possible typhoon victims in the regions that will be likely hit by Juan.

He said the Department of Education has also suspended classes at all levels in Regions 1, 2 and CAR. He said the school buildings will be serving as evacuation centers if necessary.

Ramos said the Philippine Coast Guard had issued advisories to fishermen in Cagayan not to go fishing during the typhoon to avoid loss of lives.

He said Juan spared Metro Manila. 

"We will probably feel the rains because its (typhoon) radius is 300 km. The wind will not be that strong but because of the gale effect, we will experience rains here (in Metro Manila)," he explained. 

For more 'Juan' updates, go to the Weather section