Flights cancelled, thousands stranded
Rudy Santos (The Philippine Star) - November 9, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Several local and international flights as well as port operations were cancelled as Super Typhoon Yolanda – one of the strongest storms in recent years – smashed through the Visayas yesterday.

Philippine Airlines, PALexpress and Cebu Pacific cancelled their domestic flights to and from Manila and several domestic destinations.

The Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) also cancelled operations at several ports starting Thursday as part of government efforts to minimize the impact of the monster typhoon.

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said the suspension of port operations left over 3,000  passengers stranded.

Some banks also suspended operations in the region.

PAL and PALex cancelled 25 domestic flights to Tacloban, Calabayog, Catarman, Cebu, Tagbilaran, Dumaguete, Bacolod, Iloilo, Roxas, Kalibo, Caticlan, Masbate, Legaspi, Naga, Puerto Princesa, Busuanga, Butuan, Surigao, Cagaya de Oro, Ozamiz, Dipolog, General Santos, Zamboanga, Sanga-Sanga and Jolo.

PAL also canceled international flights Cebu-Narita-Cebu PR 434/433 while PALex canceled flights Manila-Kuala Lumpur-Manila and Manila-Singapore-Manila 2P 875/876 and 2P800/801 for Saturday.

PAL said that all internationals flights except Cebu-Narita-Cebu are operational.

PAL /PALex passengers with flights to typhoon-affected areas may rebook their flights within 30 days from the original flight date with no rebooking and fare difference fees.

Cebu Pacific has also cancelled approximately 125 roundtrip domestic flights and four roundtrip international flights from Nov. 7 to 10.

The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) has issued a Notice to Airman (NOTAM) on domestic and international airports in Bicol and the Visayas because of the typhoon.

CAAP had ordered the suspension of services in the airports in Roxas, Caticlan, Legaspi, Iloilo, and Romblon until 6 p.m. today.

CAAP said the Cebu-Mactan and Clark international airports are not available as alternatives for the duration of the typhoon until today.

Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) spokesman Michael Arthur Sagcal said they had to order the suspension of airport operations due to the typhoon.

The Philippine Ports Authority, on the other hand, has suspended operations in 16 ports as all trips of vessels and fast craft were suspended until the typhoon leaves the country.

The affected ports include Ormoc (Baseport), Baybay in Leyte, Palompon in Leyte, Naval in Biliran, Isabel in Leyte, Surigao, Lipata in Surigao, Batangas, Poctoy, Lucena, Tabaco, Masbate, Albay, Legazpi, Tagbilaran, and Dumaguete.

PCG spokesman Commander Armand Balilo said a total of 3,093 passengers were taken into temporary shelters after they were left stranded due to the suspension of port operations.

The Bicol region reportedly had the most number of stranded passengers with 1,587 in Sorsogon and four in Masbate; in Eastern Visayas, there were 783 people in Catbalogan and 70 in Maasin; in Western Visayas, there were 78 people in Iloilo, 116 in Bacolod, and 66 in Caticlan; and in Southern Tagalog there were 231 people in Batangas, 80 in Calapan, 42 in Lucena, and 36 in Mamburao.

Aside from passengers, PCG received information that 155 vessels, 707 rolling cargo vessels and 13 motorboats were also stranded. A total of 76 vessels have taken shelter as precautionary measure against the strong winds and rough seas brought about by the monster storm.

Compared to previous typhoons, the number of stranded passengers was substantially reduced, according to Balilo.

“Usually, the number of stranded passengers would reach 9,000 to 10,000 whenever there is a storm. I think that the policy of the LTFRB (Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board) to prevent roll on and roll off (RoRo) buses from going to their ports of destination (helped) because usually the bus passengers are left stranded at the Batangas port and Sorsogon port,” he said.

Banks in the region also suspended operations until after the storm passes.

In separate advisories, Banco de Oro Unibank Inc., PSBank, Philippine Veterans Bank, and United Coconut Planters Bank said they have to temporarily close their branches to ensure the safety of all customers and employees.

BDO said the affected branches are located in Aklan, Antique, Bacolod, Bicol, Bohol, Butuan, Capiz, Catanduanes, Cebu, Iloilo, Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental, Palawan, Sorsogon and Surigao.

“The bank will keep its clients and the general public updated on the resumption of operation of the said branches,” BDO said.

BDO, however, assured the public its ATMs and online/Internet banking are operational.

PVB also closed its branches in Tacloban, Catarman, Legazpi City (Albay), Tagbilaran, San Jose (Mindoro Occidental), Dumaguete, Cebu, Mandaue, Roxas City (Capiz), Naga, Butuan, Iloilo, Bacolod, Cagayan de Oro and Kalibo.

UCPB also closed its branches in typhoon affected areas including those located in Daet, Legaspi, Masbate, Naga, San Jose, Sorsogon, Banilad, Calbayog, Carbon, Dumaguete, F. Ramos, Iznart, Jaro, Jones Ave., Kalibo, Lacson, Libered, Mabini, Mabolo, Mandaue, Mango Ave. North Drive, Roxas, San Juan, SM City Cebu, Tacloban, Tagbilaran, Butuan and Surigao.

PSBank also closed its branches in Bacolod, Butuan, Cebu, Mandaue, Dumaguete, Iloilo, Quezon, Legazpi, Ormoc, Roxas City, Tacloban and Tagbilaran, Bohol.

However, PSBank assured the public of ATM operations in its branches.

Globe Telecoms, on the other hand, said cellphone services in the affected regions are still operational despite the strong winds and heavy rains brought by Yolanda.

Globe said about 20 percent of the cellphone network in the Visayas region has been adversely affected by the typhoon.

The typhoon also caused disruption in about six percent of Globe’s network in the Mindanao area, said Robert Tan, Globe chief technical adviser.

The adverse impact on sites in the Visayas region was due mostly to commercial power interruption following strong winds brought by the storm.

Some cell sites were also affected by misalignment of antennas due to gusty winds brought by Yolanda, Tan said.

“Rest assured that our technical team is available to address network issues as soon as it is safe for us to do so. We have mobilized our technical personnel to work 24/7 to restore text, call and data services as soon as possible,” Tan said.

Meanwhile, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) said they have yet to receive reports of unpassable roads because of the typhoon.

The DPWH said equipment and maintenance personnel are on standby to conduct road-clearing activities. – Evelyn Macairan, Lawrence Agcaoili, Donnabelle Gatdula, Ed Amoroso


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