Dark Christmas in typhoon areas
none (The Philippine Star) - December 15, 2015 - 9:00am

MANILA, Philippines – Many areas were plunged into darkness yesterday as Typhoon Nona (international name Melor) continued to barrel across the country, causing flooding and power outages and displacing more than 700,000 people in different provinces.

Power was cut as transmission lines and electric posts were toppled by strong winds and heavy rains.

Five towns in Quezon province; the entire Marinduque; the Mimaropa region; Sorsogon, Albay and portions of Camarines Sur in the Bicol region; and Eastern Samar, Northern Samar in Eastern Visayas were without electricity yesterday.

Power and communication lines were also down in Catarman. Army and police troops were dispatched to the area to conduct relief and rescue operations as well as do a visual check on the badly hit town.

Landslides and flooding also rendered the Mapanas-Palapag Road, Allen-Catarman Road, Lope de Vega-Catarman and Hibaca-an Bridge in San Jose de Buan in Samar impassable.

Soldiers and policemen were deployed to assist in the road clearing operations and to conduct humanitarian assistance and disaster rescue operations in all typhoon-devastated areas in Bicol, Samar and Southern Tagalog.

Hundreds displaced, 3 reported dead

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said 722,150 had been evacuated to shelter areas as of yesterday afternoon.

Three fatalities were reported. One was identified as Pascual Ausente Jr. of Allen town in Northern Samar. He was hit by a flying galvanized roofing sheet as the typhoon blew through town on Monday.

The provincial disaster office in Sorsogon also reported yesterday that a 70-year-old grandmother and her 11-year-old granddaughter were crushed to death when their house was smashed by an uprooted tree Monday night.

The victims were identified as Violeta Habla and her granddaughter Edina Habla. Search and rescue teams recovered their bodies inside their destroyed house at Barangay Boton, Casiguran town at 9:30 a.m. yesterday.

Nona also left seven people injured in the Bicol region, according to the Office of Civil Defense.

In Catanduanes, at least 17 houses were destroyed while three houses were damaged, the OCD reported.

The Catarman Airport in Northern Samar also sustained structural damage brought by the strong winds from the typhoon, according to the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP).

Heavily damaged airport facilities include the terminal building where the roof was blown away by the wind, fire station building, CAAP staff house and three guard posts.

Damaged were the flight services station tower, air navigation service powerhouse, weather instrument, signage and perimeter fence.

Region 8 CAAP area manager Danilo Abareta said power and communication lines were also down in the area of Catarman while other airports under Area Center 8, including Daniel Z. Romualdez Airport, sustained minor damage.

“We expect normal commercial operations in these airports as soon as weather improves and clearing operations are done,” Abareta said.

Relief operations

Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman said the Department of Social Welfare and Development started sending out relief goods to local government units (LGUs) that lie along the path of Nona ahead of its landfall as part of disaster preparedness measures.

The Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) also activated yesterday its quick response units to respond to the hospitalization of people affected by Nona.

Under the PCSO Quick Response Program, the agency will shoulder the cost of medical treatment of victims of natural disasters and national emergencies in government hospitals.

General manager Jose Ferdinand Rojas II said PCSO branches in the Visayas, Bicol region and Southern Tagalog are on alert, ready to extend assistance.

Nona weakened

While Nona weakened, it would continue to bring rains over provinces in the western section of the country in the next few days, according to Rene Paciente, chief of the marine meteorological services section of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA).

As of 5 p.m. yesterday, public storm warning signal No. 3 remained hoisted over Oriental Mindoro and Occidental Mindoro, including Lubang Island.

Signal No. 2 was up in Batangas, Cavite, Marinduque, Romblon and Calamian group of islands.

PAGASA retained signal No. 1 over Metro Manila, Bataan, Southern Zambales, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, Rizal, Quezon and Northern Palawan, including Cuyo Island and Antique.

Areas under signal Nos. 3 and 2 will continue to experience stormy weather while rains with gusty winds will prevail in places under signal No. 1.

PAGASA continued to warn the public in areas under public storm warning signals against possible flash floods and landslides.

Coastal residents in provinces under signal Nos. 3 and 2 should also brace for possible storm surges of up to two meters.

PAGASA weather forecaster Aldczar Aurelio also warned the public against big waves in the seaboards of Northern and Central Luzon due to the typhoon and the northeast monsoon.

As of 4 p.m. yesterday, the eye of Nona was located in the vicinity of Santa Cruz, Oriental Mindoro, packing winds of 140 kilometers per hour near the center and gustiness of up to 170 kph.

Nona slowed down as it crossed Northern Mindoro yesterday afternoon. It is forecast to move westward at 11 kph.

Nona made its fourth and fifth landfalls over Romblon and Pinamalayan, Oriental Mindoro, respectively, yesterday.

On Monday, Nona made landfall over Batag, Northern Samar, Bulusan, Sorsogon and Burias Island.

MMDA prepared for floods

As the typhoon was being felt in Metro Manila, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and the Quezon City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office yesterday went on yellow alert to prepare for possible flooding in the metropolis.

Under a yellow alert status, the MMDA will deploy its composite teams to identified flood-prone areas in the metropolis.

MMDA chairman Emerson Carlos convened the Metro Manila Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council and coordinated with the LGUs in Metro Manila.

The National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) also placed its search and rescues teams on standby.

But as of 4:30 p.m., the Flood Control Information Center of MMDA recorded no flooding in the metropolis.

Flights cancelled, passengers stranded

Meanwhile, Manila International Airport Authority said that 64 domestic flights were canceled due to the typhoon.

Philippine Airlines Express cancelled 46 domestic flights from Manila to Masbate, Naga, Caticlan, Legaspi, Catarman, Calbayog, Roxas, Kalibo and Busuanga and their turnaround trips, while Cebu Pacific cancelled six flights going to Legazpi and Roxas City.

CebGo also cancelled 10 Manila-Caticlan-Manila flights, while Skyjet cancelled two roundtrip flights to Caticlan.

New low-pressure area

State meteorologists spotted a new weather disturbance which may enter the country this week.

PAGASA said the low-pressure area was located at 1,645 km east southeast of Mindanao as of 2 p.m. yesterday.

It is expected to enter the Philippine area of responsibility tomorrow.

“Based on latest forecast, the disturbance is likely to dissipate before hitting landmass of Northern Mindanao,” Paciente said. – With Jaime Laude, Helen Flores, Mike Frialde, Presues Echeminada, Celso Amo, Rainier Allan Ronda, Louise Maureen Simeon, Non Alquitran, Rudy Santos, Robertzon Ramirez, Ghio Ong, Cecille Suerte Felipe

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