Ambo causes evacuation ânightmareâ
Residents brave rains and strong wind along a highway in Can-avid, Eastern Samar as Typhoon Ambo made landfall yesterday.

Ambo causes evacuation ‘nightmare’

Rhodina Villanueva (The Philippine Star) - May 15, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Powerful Typhoon Ambo made landfall at around 12:15 p.m. yesterday in San Policarpio, Eastern Samar, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) reported.

Authorities had a hard time controlling thousands of evacuees to avoid overcrowding in evacuation centers to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

PAGASA said Ambo, the first typhoon to hit the country, made landfall packing maximum sustained winds of 155 kilometers per hour and gusts of up to 190 kph.

The storm maintained its strength as it continued to move over the northern portion of Samar province, according to PAGASA.

In its bulletin issued yesterday at 5 p.m., PAGASA said the eye of Ambo was located based on all available data including those from Virac Doppler Radar in the vicinity of San Jose De Buan, Samar.

With maximum sustained winds of 155 kph near the center and gustiness of up to 255 kph, Ambo is said to be moving west at 15 kph.

Eastern Samar Gov. Ben Evardone said yesterday the province is facing a “nightmare” in providing shelter to residents displaced by the storm after the provincial government previously converted the local evacuation centers into quarantine facilities for COVID-19 patients.

Evardone said they have a very complicated situation as they are now dealing with two problems, the COVID-19 outbreak and the typhoon.

The Department of Health (DOH) Eastern Visayas field office said there are 97 suspected COVID-19 cases in Eastern Samar, with two deaths.

“We have to deal with the evacuees of this typhoon so this is really a nightmare for us,” he told CNN Philippines.

Among their problems is how to maintain physical distancing among evacuees, an important measure to control the spread of the respiratory illness.

Adding to their woes is the power outage in Eastern Samar after the typhoon hit the province yesterday.

Evardone said the resources of their local government units (LGUs) are already stretched as these were spent to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 in their province.

“We have been dealing with this the past two months and most of the resources of the LGUs are already depleted,” he said.

PAGASA said the eyewall of the typhoon is bringing violent winds and heavy to intense rains over the northern portion of Samar and the southern portion of Northern Samar.

Tropical Cyclone Wind Signal No. 3 has been raised over Luzon, particularly in Sorsogon, Albay, Masbate including Ticao and Burias Islands, Catanduanes, Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte and southern portion of Quezon (Tagkawayan, Calauag, Lopez, Macalelon, General Luna, Catanauan, Buenavista, Guinayangan, Mulanay, San Narciso, San Andres, San Francisco).

Signal No. 3 has also been raised in the Visayas, particularly in Northern Samar, the northern portion of Eastern Samar (Jipapad, Arteche, Maslog, Dolores, Oras, San Policarpo, Can-avid, Taft, Sulat, San Julian, Borongan City, Maydolong, the northern portion of Samar: Calbayog City, Sta. Margarita, Gandara, Pagsanghan, San Jorge, Matuguinao, San Jose de Buan, Catbalogan, Jiabong, Motiong, Paranas, Tarangnan, San Sebastian, Hinabangan), and Biliran.

Meanwhile, affected areas under Tropical Cyclone Wind Signal No. 2 in Luzon include the southern portion of Quezon (Sampalaoc, Lucban, Tayabas, Dolores, Candelaria, Sariaya, Tiaong, San Antonio, Lucena, Pagbilao, Atimonan, Padre Burgos, Agdangan, Unisan, Plaridel, Gumaca, Pitogo, Quezon, Alabat, Perez, Real, Marinduque, Romblon, Laguna) and southeastern portion of Batangas (Padre Garcia, Ibaan, Batangas City, Taysan, Rosario, Lobo, San Juan).

In the Visayas, Signal No. 2 was raised over the northernmost portion of Leyte (Calubian, San Isidro, Tabango, Leyte, Capoocan, Carigara, Barugo, San Miguel, Babatngon, Tunga, Alangalang, Sta. Fe, Palo, Tacloban City, Jaro), the rest of Samar and the rest of Eastern Samar.

Tropical Wind Signal No. 1 has been raised over portions of Luzon including Aurora, Nueva Ecija, Bulacan, Metro Manila, Cavite, Rizal, Bataan, Pampanga, Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino, Tarlac, Zambales, Oriental Mindoro, eastern portion of Pangasinan (Lingayen, Bugallon, Aguilar, Mangatarem, Binmaley, San Carlos, Urbiztondo, Basista, Bayambang, Bautista, Calasiao, Alcala, Malasiqui, Sta. Barbara, Dagupan, Mangaldan, San Jacinto, Mapandan, Manaoag, Urdaneta, Villasis, Sto. Tomas, Rosales, Balungao, Umingan, San Quintin, Sta. Maria, Natividad, Tayug, Asingan, San Nicolas, San Manuel, Binalonan, Laoac, Pozorrubio, Sison, San Fabian), rest of Quezon, and rest of Batangas.

In the Visayas, the rest of northern portion of Leyte (Villaba, Kananga, Matag-ob, Palompon, Ormoc, Merida, Isabel, Ormoc City, Albuena, Pastrana, Dagami, Tanauan, Tabontabon, Tolosa, Barauen, Julita, Dulag), the northeastern portion of Capiz (Pilar), the northeastern portion of Iloilo (Carles, Balasan, Estancia, Batad), and Northern Cebu (Medelin, Daanbantayan, Madridejos, Bantayan, Santa Fe) are under Signal No. 1.

PAGASA said residents in affected areas are advised to take appropriate measures, coordinate with local disaster risk reduction and management offices and continue monitoring for updates.

At a virtual press briefing yesterday, PAGASA weather specialist Chris Perez said there is also the possibility that strong winds could later hit Metro Manila.

Operation Plan: Listo

President Duterte ordered all concerned agencies, particularly the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Center (NDRRMC), to implement Operation Plan: Listo to protect the people from the typhoon.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said that Under Oplan Listo, relief goods are pre-positioned in various evacuation centers where the government would also be implementing social distancing measures on a per family basis.

The Department of Health reminded local government units (LGUs) to ensure physical distancing among typhoon victims in evacuation centers.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire stressed the need to observe physical distancing and other health protocols to prevent possible transmission of COVID-19 among evacuees.

“Most of our LGUs have their own tents, which separate families in evacuation centers. We hope this can be implemented so we can observe minimum health standard to prevent infection in this kind of facilities,” Vergeire said.

She said the government has mobilized disaster risk reduction teams to ensure that minimum health standards are observed in evacuation centers.

In Bicol region alone, about 80,000 families from low-lying areas were evacuated to protect them from landslides and storm surges.

Preemptive evacuation

Local government authorities in Eastern Samar ordered preemptive evacuation of residents living along the projected path of Ambo prior to the storm’s landfall at noon yesterday.

People who are residing along identified high risk disaster areas were moved to safer places prior to Ambo’s landfall, according to NDRRMC spokesman Mark Timbal.

To control the spread of COVID-19, all evacuees as well as disaster responders were required to wear masks and other protective gear.

“The evacuees were also required to observe social distancing while taking shelter at their designated evacuation centers,” Timbal said.

The NDRRMC is still waiting reports from the regional Office of Civil Defense (OCD) in Easern Visayas on the number of evacuated families or individuals.

Earlier, the NDRRMC alerted LGUs and residents in disaster prone areas to brace for possible flash floods and landslides.

NDRRMC executive director and OCD administrator Ricardo Jalad said Ambo may topple trees and destroy houses made of light materials.

Ready for Ambo

The Department of Social Welfare and Development is ready for Ambo even as it is in the middle of assisting low-income families displaced by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Irene Dumlao, DSWD social marketing service officer-in-charge.

“The DSWD has coordinated with the LGUs for the deployment and augmentation of resources,” Dumlao told The STAR.

Dumlao gave assurance the agency has standby calamity funds to augment the resources of LGUs.

The DSWD has a standby fund of P242.5 million as well as 413,339 family food packs and non-food relief items amounting to P271.4 MILLION.

Sea travel suspended

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) temporarily cancelled the operations of cargo vessels and fishing boats as Ambo made landfall over Eastern Samar yesterday afternoon.

The PCG said maritime activities will resume when the weather condition normalizes.

It said the PCG district and station offices were alerted to prepare for emergency response and coordinate with their respective regional disaster risk reduction and management council.

The PCG said 293 cargo drivers or helpers were stranded yesterday afternoon while 133 rolling cargoes and five cargo vessels were suspended due to Ambo.

It said 17 vessels and two motor bancas are taking shelter in the Bicol region.

Less damage to agriculture

Ambo is seen to leave less damage on the agriculture sector as the summer harvest season is now on its tail end.

Agriculture spokesman Noel Reyes said the Department of Agriculture (DA) is prepared and has readied possible interventions.

The DA-Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Operations Center said areas at risk are 175,954 hectares for rice and 89,303 hectares for corn. These are under reproductive and maturity stages.

The DA prepositioned 75,875 bags of rice seeds, 8,448 bags of corn and 1,111 kilos of vegetable seeds from various regions.

Drugs and biologics for livestock and poultry needs and funds from the Philippine Crop Insurance Corp. to indemnify farmers are also available.

Regions along the path of the typhoon have activated their respective operations centers to monitor the situation and disseminate advisories to municipal and city agriculture offices in their respective regions through social media. Christina Mendez, Mayen Jaymalin, Louise Maureen Simeon, Emmanuel Tupas, Rainier Allan Ronda, Robertzon Ramirez, Jaime Laude

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