Ursula brings Christmas misery to Visayas

Jaime Laude - The Philippine Star
Ursula brings Christmas misery to Visayas
Rescue teams use ropes to assist residents as water rises in President Roxas, Capiz yesterday. Typhoon Ursula barreled across the Visayas on Christmas Day, causing heavy flooding in several cities and towns.

MANILA, Philippines — Typhoon Ursula slammed Western Visayas and the Southern Tagalog region on Christmas Day, making the holiday season wet and miserable for millions.

Thousands were stranded at shuttered ports or evacuation centers at the height of the festive season yesterday, and residents cowered in rain-soaked homes as Ursula leapt from one small island to another for the second day.

Ursula made seven landfalls, toppling houses and trees, and blacked out cities in the Visayas, Mimaropa (Mindoro-Marinduque-Romblon-Palawan) and the Bicol region.

Local officials in Abuyog, Leyte reported one fatality from the storm.

A resident looks at a house damaged by Typhoon Ursula in Tacloban, Leyte yesterday.

Leyte Gov. Leopoldo Dominico Petilla said initial reports indicated one person was electrocuted in Abuyog.

Petilla said he was verifying a report that one person went missing in Kananga town during the storm.

Though weaker, Ursula (international name Phanfone) tracked a similar path as Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), the country’s deadliest cyclone on record that left more than 7,300 people dead or missing in 2013.

The National Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said more than 10,000 people spent the night in schools, gyms and government buildings hastily converted into evacuation centers as Ursula made landfall Tuesday.

Some 912 families or 4,115 persons in the towns of Catarman, Northern Samar; Jipadpad, San Julian Giporlos, Eastern Samar; Catbalogan City, Villareal, Calbiga, Jiabong, Basey in Samar province; Taclobal City, Palo, Lapas, Dulag, Babatngon, Barugo, San Isidro, Isael, Bato and Baybay in Leyte and Padre Burgos, Sogod and Tomas Oppus in Southern Leyte were preemptively evacuated on Christmas Eve.

Ursula blacked out the towns of San Julian, Borongan and Taft in Eastern Samar; Basey, Marabut, Sta. Rita, Pinabacdao, Daram in Samar province; Tacloban City in Leyte and San Ricardo in Southern Leyte. As of yesterday, power has been restored in some areas, officials said.

More than 25,000 people trying to get home for the traditional Noche Buena with their families remained stranded at ports on Christmas Day with ferry services still shut down, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said.

Scores of flights to the region also remained cancelled, though Metro Manila, on the northern edge of the typhoon, has so far been spared.

Local and foreign tourists vacationing in the resort island of Boracay were forced to stay indoors as Ursula pummeled Aklan province.

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Service Administration (PAGASA) said Ursula was bringing “very destructive” winds and intense rainfall over the southern portion of Mindoro provinces as of 5 p.m. yesterday.

Ursula made seven landfalls since Tuesday. It hit the landmass of Salcedo, Eastern Samar; Tacloban City, Leyte; Cabucgayan, Biliran; Gigantes Islands, Carles, Iloilo, Ibajay, Aklan, Semirara Island, Caluya and Antique.

Ursula strengthened slightly overnight Tuesday and was gusting at 195 kilometers per hour, velocities that can knock down small trees and destroy houses made of light materials.

More islands along its projected path are expected to be hit with destructive winds and intense rainfall before the storm blows out into the South China Sea early today, PAGASA said.

As of 4 p.m., the eye of the typhoon was spotted 15 kilometers south southwest of San Jose, Occidental Mindoro with maximum sustained winds of 140 kilometers per hour near the center and gustiness of up to 195 kph.

It was moving west northwest at 20 kph.

As of 5 p.m., tropical cyclone wind signal no. 3 was raised over southern Oriental Mindoro, southern Occidental Mindoro and Calamian Islands.

Signal no. 2 remained up in Romblon, Batangas, Marinduque, the rest of Oriental Mindoro, the rest of Occidental Mindoro including Lubang Island and Cuyo Island, extreme northern portion of mainland Palawan, northern Antique and northwestern Aklan.

Ursula was forecast to exit the Philippine area of responsibility this afternoon or evening. – Helen Flores, Robertzon Ramirez, Jennifer Rendon

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