VisMin regions learn lesson, brace for 'Pablo'

Posted at 12/03/2012 10:50 AM | Updated as of 12/03/2012 1:40 PM

MANILA, Philippines – National and local government authorities have started preparing as early as last weekend for typhoon "Pablo" in hopes of preventing a similar devastation brought by tropical storm "Sendong" last year.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) has placed its operations on red alert status as Pablo, which entered the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR) on Sunday, nears land.

Caraga region Office of Civil Defense (OCD) chief Amado Posas said some 2,000 families living in islands in Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur have already been brought to the mainland in anticipation of the typhoon, forecast to be the strongest to hit Philippine landmass this year.

State weather bureau PAGASA forecasts Pablo to make landfall in Surigao area Tuesday morning.

With Pablo's expected track, disaster management officials of Caraga region are expected to meet today to make preparations for the approaching typhoon.

Hinatuan Mayor Candelario Viola has also ordered the suspension of all classes in his town since the schools will be turned into evacuation centers.

Some residents in Cagayan de Oro, the province which suffered the worst during Sendong's onslaught in 2011, have also started evacuating their homes since the city is also on the typhoon's path.

The city is currently on green alert, which means officials are on standby for possible forced evacuation of residents. There are an estimated 15,000 families in the city who are vulnerable in case of flooding.

In 2011, at least 1,268 people, mostly in CDO and Iligan City, died due to Sendong's fury.

Bicol authorities, meanwhile, will continue to monitor today Mayon Volcano's crater for possible lahar flow triggered by rains from Pablo.

Region 5 Task Force Pablo chief Bernardo Alejandro said their efforts will focus on Masbate, Sorsogon and Albay but are on standby in case Pablo changes course.

Fishermen, miners warned

NDRRMC Executive Director Benito Ramos appealed to small-scale miners and fishermen in Visayas and Mindanao to suspend their activities as typhoon "Pablo" approaches land.

Ramos said deaths may occur if small scale miners and fishermen do not heed the national and local government's advice against suspending their operations.

He particularly warned miners in Compostela Valley and Agusan provinces where landslides in small-scale mining sites frequently occur as a result of strong rains.

"Two days ago, binawalan na natin sila. Binabantayan na ito ng coast guard at barangay captains. [Para sa mga minero] nandyan ang Eastern Mindano Command at 4th Infantry Division ng Philippine Army," Ramos told radio dzMM.

"Umalis muna sila sa mga butas para maiwasan natin ang disgrasya. Nandyan naman ang lokal na pamahalaan at ang DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) para ma-augment ang pagkain nila habang binabawalan silang mangisda," he added.

Ramos expects Pablo to lose its strength once it hits the Diwalwal and Diwata mountain ranges.

Stronger than Sendong

Pablo, internationally codenamed Bopha, was spotted 560 kilometers southeast of Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur as of 9 a.m. It was packing maximum sustained winds of 175 kph near the center and gusts of up to 210 kph.

PAGASA has placed Surigao del Sur and the northern part of Davao Oriental under signal no. 2 and 22 areas under signal no. 1

Estimated rainfall is from 20 - 30 millimeters per hour (heavy - intense) within the typhoon's 600-km diameter.

Paciente said the direct effect of the typhoon will be felt Monday afternoon, when its outer spiral hits southern Mindanao.

Authorities are particularly monitoring Pablo since it is stronger than Sendong in terms of wind strength.

Pablo was still packing 175 kph before its expected landfall, while Sendong only packed 65 kph before hitting land. - with dzMM