(UPDATE 4) Pepeng to continue lashing north Luzon

Posted at 10/03/09 9:05 AM

Philippine area in colorized infrared image, US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, MTSAT image 7:30 p.m. Oct. 3, 2009 (Philippine time)

Two killed in Isabela, power lines down

MANILA - Typhoon Pepeng (international codename Parma) was expected to pound Cagayan province with strong winds and heavy rains the whole night as it slowed down after hitting land on Saturday afternoon.

The near-supertyphoon claimed its first recorded fatalities on Saturday when one man drowned  and another died due to hypothermia in Isabela province, police said.

The man drowned after he was swept away by a strong current while trying to cross a river in San Mariano town in Isabela province, a local policeman and provincial officials said.

Thousands of people had evacuated their homes before the arrival of the typhoon, which ripped off rooftops and knocked down trees across the north of the Philippines' main island, Luzon, on Saturday.

Prisco Nilo, administrator of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), said that official data gathered by the weather bureau showed that the typhoon made landfall over Cagayan province around 3 p.m.

Nilo said the typhoon will continue to pummel northern Luzon for 12 hours and exit on Monday morning.

Storm surges expected

AS of 4 p.m., PAGASA said Pepeng was still over Cagayan province or 40 kilometers northeast of Tuguegarao City, packed with maximum sustained winds of 175 kilometers per hour (kph) and gusts of up to 210 kph.

The weather bureau said the typhoon made landfall at a speed of 24 kph, and slowed down to 15 kph after the impact.

Nathaniel Cruz, PAGASA spokesperson, said "ground data" showed that Pepeng hit Tuguegarao City with maximum sustained winds of 80 kph and gusts of up to 115 kph, and dumped 117.0 millimeters of rain.

Cagayan, including Calayan and Babuyan islands, Ilocos Norte, Mountain Province, Abra, Apayao, Kalinga, northern part of Isabela and Babuyan island have been placed under Storm Signal No. 3.

Signal No. 2 remained hoisted over Isabela, Ifugao, Nueva Vizcaya, Benguet and La Union while the provinces of Quirino, Aurora, Nueva Ecija and Pangasinan were under Signal No. 1.

Cruz said PAGASA expects the typhoon's stong winds to generate storm surges along the coastline of Cagayan province.

Expecting heavy damage

Nilo, meanwhile, said that based on PAGASA's experience, they expect the typhoon to cause heavy damage to agriculture and infrastructure in areas along its path.

He said the typhoon's winds of 175 kph to 210 kph can uproot trees, tear down houses and establishments made of light materials, and disrupt power and communication lines.

He added that travel by land, sea and air in the areas being pounded by the typhoon will be dangerous.

Aileen Torres, administrator of the Philippine National Red Cross in Cagayan, said in an interview over ANC television that Cagayan province was in "chaos" due to Pepeng's pounding.

"Everything was in chaos. Branches all over the area scattered in several places. Power supply was cut off," Torres said.

Chito Castro, head of the Office of Civil Defense in Cagayan Valley, said the typhoon was blowing "very, very strong winds" over the province.

Castro said several trees have been uprooted while ABS-CBN correspondent Jorge Cariño reported from the province that several roofs have been torn off houses. Communication lines have also been cut off, field reports added.

Torres said water has overwhelmed two bridges in Tuao town and Tuguegarao City rendering them impassable.

She said they were able to evacuate at least 50 families from four villages in Tuao and Sta. Ana towns before Pepeng made landfall in the province.

Rains over Metro Manila

Cruz said rains will also be experienced over Metro Manila while the typhoon is crossing northern Luzon. He said the weather condition in the capital will improve on Sunday morning.

Cruz reiterated that the amount of rainfall from Pepeng will be less compared to rains dumped by tropical storm Ondoy (international codename Ketsana), which flooded large parts of Metro Manila last Saturday.

Susan Espinueva, head of PAGASA's hydrometeorological services, said only areas in Rizal, Laguna and Marikina are in danger of experiencing higher levels of floodwaters because of the spilling Laguna de Bay.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on Friday placed the country under a state of calamity as she ordered preemptive evacuations in areas expected to be hit by the typhoon.

The National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) reported Saturday morning that thousdands of people living in critical areas in La Union, Cagayan, Isabela, Batanes, Quirino provinces have been evacuated.

More than 20,000 families or more than 100,000 people have also been evacuated in Bicol and a few hundred more were brought to evacuation centers in the Calabarzon area.

The government has also announced the allotment of a P100 million calamity fund for the continuing relief efforts for the victims of tropical storm Ondoy, which entered the country last week and left nearly 300 people dead and 42 more missing. -- with Agence France-Presse