Powerful 'Juan' barrels toward northern Luzon

Posted at 10/17/10 5:54 PM

SIgnal number 4 up in 2 provinces

PAGASA-DOST MTSAT-EIR Satellite Image for 5 p.m. 17 Oct. 2010 (Typhoon Juan/Megi) (PAGASA-DOST)

MANILA, Philippines - Typhoon Juan (international codename Megi) has further intensified, with public storm warning signal number 4 raised over two provinces in the Cagayan Valley region.

In its 5 pm press conference, the weather bureau PAGASA said Juan currently has maximum sustained winds of 225 kilometers per hour (kph) near the center, and wind gusts of up to 260 kph near the center.

The typhoon, the season's 10th, was spotted 390 kilometers east of Aparri, Cagayan, and is currently moving westward at 22 kilometers per hour.

Public storm warning signal number 4 has been raised over Cagayan and Isabela provinces. These areas are expected to experience winds of more than 185 kph.

Public storm warning signal number 3 has been raised over the Calayan and Babuyan group of islands, Batanes, Apayao, Kalinga, Mountain Province, Ifugao, Quirino, and northern Aurora.

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

Meanwhile, public storm warning signal number 2 has been raised over Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Abra, La Union, Benguet, Nueva Vizcaya, and the rest of Aurora.

Public storm warning signal number 1, meanwhile, is in effect over Pangasinan, Tarlac, Nueva Ecija, and Polilio Island.

The typhoon is expected to make landfall over Cagayan province by Monday morning, at around 8 am, and is expected to exit over the western coast of Ilocos Norte in the afternoon.

The eye of the typhoon is expected to pass over Cagayan, Apayao, and Ilocos Norte.

Rainfall is estimated to be 20 millimeters per hour, based on readings by the PAGASA weather radar in Aparri.

'As strong as Rosing, Anding'

The weather bureau, during the press conference, also reported updates from field personnel dispatched to the affected areas.

Cloudy, windy weather has been reported over Basco, Batanes, but no rainshowers have been observed; meanwhile, in the towns of Sta Ana, Gonzaga, Ballesteros, and Sta Praxedes in Cagayan, strong winds and occasional rains have been reported.

Intermittent, light to moderate rain have been reported in Baguio City and in Diffun, Quirino; while, in Nueva Vizcaya, the weather has been reported to be cloudy, without rain or winds.

The gustiness of the current typhoon has been compared by the weather bureau to typhoon Rosing (1995) and Anding (1981). In comparison, the strongest typhoons to ever hit the Philippines has been Reming (2006), with wind gusts of up to 320 kph, and Sening (1975), with gusts of up to 275 kph.

Based on the typhoon track, only the watershed of the Magat Dam will be affected. The bureau will issue a separate flood forecast.

7 million people affected

Typhoon Juan would be felt in northern Luzon, a rice and corn growing area on the country's main island, and the government advised the up to 7 million people in its direct path to stock up on food and medicine.

Government forecasters said waves off the east coast could be greater than 14 meters (46 ft), and advised against travel to the region as Juan could bring flash flooding, landslides and storm surges. Metro Manila is not expected to be affected by the typhoon.

The governor of northern Cagayan, Alvaro Antonio, told Reuters the typhoon could cause great damage to the rice crop.

"Based on our estimates, about 50-60 percent of our rice production could either be destroyed or damaged. We are the top producer of rice," he said.

For news on typhoon 'Juan's' affected areas, go to the Weather section

The Cagayan Valley region produces about of a third of the country's rice. The head of the state grain agency said last month that rice output would be about 3.2 million tonnes short of a projected 17.4 million tonnes this year.

Last year, the country lost 1.3 million tonnes of paddy rice following three strong typhoons in September and October, prompting it to go to the market early to boost its rice stocks.

Dozens of people living along the coast, near river banks and low-lying areas in the northern Cagayan and Isabela provinces have started moving to higher grounds, Benito Ramos, head of the national disaster agency, told reporters.

Trucks, rubber boats, amphibious vehicles and generators were sent to the north to help in the rescue and relief operations, he added. Schools in the north will be closed on Monday.

High alert

President Benigno Aquino III ordered all government agencies to be on high alert to prevent any casualties, while the coast guard was instructed to ban all fishing vessels from setting off to sea in the north.

"The president is reiterating that all agencies concerned should be ready for the approaching super typhoon Juan," said Abigail Valte, a deputy spokeswoman for Aquino.

She warned the public against being complacent, amid reports that the weather in some northern provinces remained clear as of early Sunday.

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

But Norma Talosig, regional chief of the Office of Civil Defence, said government was not ruling out forced evacuation for those who refuse to leave their homes despite being told to do so.

"If we have to conduct forced evacuations, we'll do it for their (residents') safety," Talosig said over national radio. "Our main objective is the safety of the community, the safety of the responders."

In Manila, disaster officials said food packs, medicine and rescue equipment, including rubber boats, are ready in areas expected to be lashed by the typhoon.

National police spokesman Senior Superintendent Agrimero Cruz said additional search and rescue teams from Manila were en route to the north to bolster forces there.

"We have also declared a full alert status all over the country," Cruz said. With reports from Reuters and the Agence France-Presse