CEBU, Philippines - A big sigh of relief was felt by Cebuanos yesterday after news from the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) was released that super typhoon Pablo would not be passing Cebu after all.
This developed as Pablo killed 43 people in one hard-hit town in Compostela Valley, ABS-CBN reported from the scene.
“I’ve counted 43 bodies on the floor,” reporter Vina Araneta told the station by telephone from a government building in New Bataan town, Compostela Valley.
PAGASA’s update came after an earlier warning for the whole province, especially the southern part, to brace for strong winds and rains as the typhoon is expected to pass Cebu, which has been placed under a signal number 3.
Alice Canasa of PAG-ASA Mactan explained that the strong winds and rain was expected at around 5 p.m. but was delayed since “Pablo” slowed down to 160kph from 175kph of maximum sustained winds.
Provincial, city and municipal government units immediately evacuated residents living near flood-prone areas.
But at around 5:00 pm, PAG-ASA released an update that Pablo already passed Cebu at around 2:30 p.m. and was already on its way to Dumaguete.
Oscar Tabada, chief of PAG-ASA Mactan explained that high pressure pushed Pablo away from Cebu.
However, Tabada said that moderate to heavy rains can still be felt in the Cebu due to the thickness of the typhoon.
As of press time, the southern part of Cebu was still placed under signal number 3 while the rest of the province was under signal number 2.
Signal number 3 was also raised over Negros Oriental.
Today, Pablo is expected at 140 kilometers southwest of Coron, Palawan while tomorrow, and is expected at 450 kilometers west of Subic, Zambales and will be 660 kilometers Northwest of Iba, Zambales by Friday.
Pablo, which has the international name Bopha, killed at least eight people in the country on Tuesday and there were fears the toll could rise sharply as the strongest storm to hit the country this year brought scenes of devastation.
Authorities were checking reports that a flash flood swept away an army truck with up to 30 soldiers and 20 civilians on board on the southern island of Mindanao, where the storm made landfall at dawn.
The typhoon brought driving rain and packed gusts of up to 210 kilometres (130 miles) an hour, toppling trees and power lines, causing localized flooding and forcing more than 50,000 to seek refuge in emergency shelters.
At least eight people were confirmed killed, including an elderly woman who was crushed to death when a tree fell on her house, a motorist who was pinned down by a coconut tree, and a soldier who drowned, rescue officials said.
The cause of death of the other five was not specified.
Civil Defense Office chief Benito Ramos said the report of the army truck swept away came from the southern town of New Bataan.
“There was a platoon of about 30 soldiers that deployed there in preparation for the typhoon,” he said.
Four fishermen were also reported missing off Mindanao’s east coast, said Freddie Bendulo, planning and development officer of Davao Oriental province.
A weaker Pablo headed for the Sulu Sea in the late afternoon, changing course westward after briefly threatening the central tourist islands of Bohol, Cebu and Negros, the state weather service said.
Hundreds of people are killed each year by the 20 or so tropical cyclones that hit the Philippines, but Ramos said the confirmed casualties so far from Pablo were down due to government efforts to move people to safety.
Cebu Provincial Governor Gwendolyn Garcia announced that classes in all levels in the province will continue to be suspended today.
Work in government offices were also suspended yesterday to give employees time to go home early and brace for Pablo.
In Boljoon, a woman who was brought to the hospital when a coconut tree fell on her that fractured her feet.
In Dalaguete, 20 to 30 families were evacuated while in Toledo City, about 95 families living at the boulevard area and near Sapangdaku River were evacuated.
In Dumaguete City, Pablo struck at around 5 p.m. and winds blew roofs off some buildings, signages and electric poles fell and some areas were flooded .
Ocoy River overflowed while some roads were not passable because of uprooted trees.
Families fled their homes and stayed in chapels and public schools.
About 300 students who were in Dumaguete City for the Central Visayas Regional Athletic Association (CVRAA) were stranded in Amador Dagudag Elementary School because of the rise of flood water up to waistline level.
In Bohol, work in all government agencies as well as classes in all levels were suspended.
Residents along the riverbanks in the towns of Trinidad and Guindulman were evacuated as officials monitor the water level of big rivers in the municipalities of Inabanga, Garcia-Hernandez, Loay and Loboc.
The Larena Police in Siquijor, led by Insp. Rommel Luga, conducted a recoreda at coastal areas and hilly barangays to warn residents to vacate their houses to safer grounds and for fishermen not to go fishing at this time.
Siquijor experienced a power blackout at 11 a.m. yesterday while classes in all public elementary and secondary schools as well as work in government offices in the province were suspended.
Classes in the pre-school, elementary and high school were also suspended in Iloilo City.
The typhoon also led to the suspension of sea vessel operations in Western Visayas leaving around 800 passengers stranded.
As of yesterday afternoon, the Coast Guard allowed vessels sailing the Caticlan-Boracay route because Aklan was placed under signal number 1 along with Antique Province.
The police force in Western Visayas was also placed in heightened alert status.
Chief Supt. Agrimero Cruz, Jr., director of Police Regional Office (PRO) 6, ordered all police units to enhance the security preparations and readiness for search and rescue operations.
Southern Leyte was placed under signal number 3 and about 3,000 families were evacuated in the towns of Sogod, Padre Burgos, St. Bernard and Limasawa.
All classes were suspended in Tacloban City and Leyte.
Winds blew roofs off some buildings and residents of coastal and low-lying communities in
Deaths in Mindanao
Mindanao moved into shelters as floods hit some areas, residents and AFP reporters said.
Officials, who could not immediately confirm the television report, earlier said eight other people were killed by the cyclone elsewhere in Mindanao.
The reporter said the town mayor, Lorenzo Balbin, told her many of the dead had come from a nearby village where flash floods swept away a Philippine Army patrol base.
Balbin was not answering his mobile phone when contacted by AFP.
Lieutenant-Colonel Lyndon Paniza, the military spokesman for the southern region, told AFP one soldier had drowned in New Bataan but that the military authorities there did not know how many residents were killed by the typhoon.
“There was a patrol base there that was hit. It’s a mountainous area,” Paniza said.
Arturo Uy, the governor of Compostela Valley province, which includes New Bataan, said local officials had told him earlier in the day that there were 34 people dead there.
“It’s possible they have found more bodies,” Uy told ABS-CBN by telephone.
Uy said earlier that an army truck in New Bataan had been washed away with soldiers and civilians on board.
Television footage also showed logs being swept down Mindanao’s Sumilao river, and utility workers cutting up fallen trees that were blocking highways.
More than 53,000 people had moved into nearly 1,000 government shelters by early Tuesday, the Civil Defense Office said.
Television footage showed large numbers of people lying on mats or cardboard sheets on the concrete floors of gyms.
A total of 145 flights to and from Mindanao and the central islands had been grounded since Monday night and more than 3,000 ferry passengers were stranded as vessels were ordered to stay in port, the civil defence office said.
Large parts of Mindanao, which is not normally hit by typhoons, were without electricity after power was cut to reduce the risk of fires and electrocutions.
People living in the path of the storm did what they could to protect their homes and possessions.
In Cagayan de Oro city, where giant waves crashed down on the shoreline, Mayor Vicente Emano said on ABS-CBN television that police rounded up all residents of low-lying areas and moved them to government shelters.- AJ de la Torre, Marigold P. Lebumfacil, Mitchelle L. Palaubsanon, Judy Flores Partlow, John DX Lapid, Ric V. Obedencio, Jennifer P. Rendon, Renan Lapinig Ansing, Lalaine M. Jimenea— AFP/MBG (FREEMAN)