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As “Pablo” barrels toward Visayas: Classes, sea travel suspended

The Coast Guard Cebu Station bars passenger ships from navigating as super storm “Pablo” is expected to hit Visayas.  JOY TORREJOS

CEBU, Philippines - With heavy rains expected to start pouring today, authorities have suspended classes and sea travel as Typhoon Pablo barrels toward the Visayas.

The suspension of classes in all levels in the cities of Cebu, Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu was declared upon the suggestion of  Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration, which hoisted storm signal number 2 over southern Cebu.

“Upon the recommendation of PAGASA and with my authority as Mayor, starting tomorrow classes at all levels will be suspended. Resumption of classes will be until further notice or as the weather improves,” Cebu City Michael Rama said.

Mandaue City Mayor Jonas Cortes, in a memorandum to city schools superintendent Virginia Zapanta, ordered the suspension of classes in Mandaue as the city is bracing for “Pablo.”

But Cortes clarified that there is work in all local government offices.  Cortes yesterday conducted emergency meetings with members of Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (DRRMC), barangay captains and local contractors.

He designated the office of ACERT inside the Mandaue City Cultural and Sports Complex as command center where all necessary equipment are on standby.

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In Lapu-Lapu City, classes in elementary were suspended since Monday afternoon.

Lapu-Lapu Mayor Paz Radaza convened the City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council in preparations for the super storm.

The University of Cebu announced that it has no classes in all level in anticipation of the storm. But non-teaching staff are required to report to the school.

No sea travel

As of 12 noon yesterday, the Cebu Coast Guard Station has not granted clearances to sail to at least 13 vessels due to the typhoon.

Coast Guard station commander Rolando Punzalan said sea travels to Bohol, Leyte and Camotes Islands were barred until public storm signal is lifted by PAGASA.  Rama met with PAGASA-7 director Oscar Tabada on the latest weather update at City Hall yesterday.

During the meeting, Tabada recommended the suspension of classes as they expect the whole Cebu to experience heavy rains today even before typhoon Pablo hits Cebu tonight or tomorrow morning.

He said that the typhoon has a wide area of 600 kilometers radius from its eye.

Tabada said “Pablo” is taking the same path as Typhoon Ruping, advising the public to be prepared.

There is still a chance that “Pablo” will deviate to another direction because weather is unpredictable.

The Cebu City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council met yesterday to prepare for the typhoon’s onslaught.

Barangays are tasked to monitor danger areas and order immediate evacuation of residents in landslide prone areas, near riverbanks and flood-prone areas at the first sign of danger.

All sports complex are declared as evacuation sites while schools are told to prepare to be used as evacuation sites if the situation requires.

The mayor also requested the Metropolitan Cebu Water District to be ready to provide water to heavily damaged areas.

He advised the public to prepare survival kits that will last for three days.

Billboards and other light objects are ordered taken down.

Rama also ordered fire victims in barangay Tisa to evacuate to safer ground, instructing the Department of Social Welfare and Services to fast track the release of their assistance.

Capitol preparations

Governor Gwendolyn Garcia convened the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (PDRRMC) and ordered the 24-hour operation of the Action Center in preparation of the storm.

The Action Center will get reports from the local government units every three hours.

The police, navy, coastguard, school officials and other agency officials briefed the council members on their preparations.

“We hope for the best but let’s prepare for the worst” Garcia said.

Garcia alerted the National Food Authority to be ready for additional supply to affected areas and asked the contractors to be ready with their equipment for clearing operations.

She tasked the mayors to implement food programs for those affected by natural calamities such as typhoon, especially the fisherfolk.

She said that fishermen should not try to go out in the rough seas because they will be given rice.

In Cebu, all farmers and fisher folks have accident insurance. Their crops, livestock and bancas (small sailing boats) are all insured by the provincial government.

During the emergency meeting yesterday, the policy on the suspension of classes was also clarified.

The law provides that local chief executive may declare suspension of classes even without signal number 1 when that particular school is at risk.

With regards to signal number 1 and 2, the school principal is tasked to immediately suspend classes.

Gov’t agencies

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources-7 urged the communities to trim down tree branches as they prepare for the storm.

“We want to secure our communities from the devastating effects of this typhoon and we are urging our local chief executives to take the necessary steps or measures to protect the lives and properties of the general public,” said DENR 7 Regional Executive Director Dr. Isabelo R. Montejo.

Montejo urged the public not to be complacent and exercise extra cautions.

“The high flooding susceptibility are due to proximity to perennial river creek system, poor drainage facility, inherently low lying area, proximity to coastal area, heavily silted river or creek, and encroachment along natural drainage channels,” he added.

He also urged local chief executives to get hold of the geohazard maps, and implement the necessary measures to reduce the impact of landslides and flooding within their areas of responsibility.

Members of the Quick Response Teams (QRT) of the Department of Social Welfare and Development are on red alert starting yesterday to map out contingency measures.

DSWD-7 spokesperson Jayvee Binghay said that some 5,000 family packs are on standby in case the local government units need augmentation support.

The family packs are composed of food and non-food items good for three days for a family of six.

The Department of Interior and Local Government-7 regional director Ananias Mori Villacorta said all local government units are advised to activate their Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

“Please pay special attention to notifications for fisherfolks, and other communities vulnerable to landslides and flooding,” Villacorta said.

The Police Regional Office-7 has declared an alert status in the entire Central Visayas.

PRO-7 Chief Supt. Marcelo Garbo Jr. ordered commanders to coordinate with the Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (RDRRMC).

“I also direct the PNP to coordinate to the different local government units in their (AOR) area of responsibility,” Garbo said. — With Gregg M. Rubio, Flor Z. Perolina, Jose P. Sollano, Ria Mae Y. Booc and Kristine B. Qunitas, USJR Mass com intern/LPM (FREEMAN)

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