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Rare Signal No. 5 raised over north as ‘Egay’ triggers widespread floods

FIREMAN IN WATER. A fireman puts a boy on his back while wading the flood-hit streets of Barangays Sum-ag, Pahanocoy. and Singcang-Airport in Bacolod City as heavy rains brought about by Super Typhoon Egay (inset storm track) caused waters to rise in low-lying areas in the city Tuesday (July 25, 2023). BFP-Bacolod City Fire Station

The state weather bureau raised tropical cyclone wind signal no. 5 over the eastern portion of Babuyan Islands as super typhoon “Egay” (international name Doksuri) maintained its strength, threatening Northern Luzon.

The storm’s effect on the “habagat” or southwest monsoon also caused widespread flooding as far south as Western Visayas, with residents of Bacolod City and its neighboring areas needing rescue from sudden chest-high floodwaters.

“Egay” is forecast to move west-northwestward in the next 24 hours before turning generally northwestward and crossing the Luzon Strait, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Administration Services Administration (PAGASA) said.

In its 8 p.m. bulletin last night, the bureau said the center of the eye of “Egay” was estimated at 135 kilometers east of Aparri, Cagayan. These and other areas in Northern Luzon can expect heavy rainfall of more than 200 millimeters until this afternoon.

The storm was moving northwestward at 15 km/h, packing maximum sustained winds of 185 km/h near the center and gustiness of up to 230 km/h.

It is forecast to make landfall or pass very close to the Babuyan Islands and the northeastern mainland Cagayan area between late last night and Wednesday morning.

After passing the Babuyan Islands, “Egay” will turn northwestward or north-northwestward and pass over the waters south of Taiwan.

It is forecast to exit the Philippine area of responsibility on Thursday morning.

PAGASA said “Egay” is nearing its peak intensity, as only a handful of storms reached signal No. 5 since the agency first used the warning level in 2015. The last such storm was “Karding” in September last year.

The southwest monsoon enhanced by “Egay” will continue to bring occasional monsoon rains over the western portions of Central Luzon, Southern Luzon, and the Visayas in the next three days.

Signal no. 4 was hoisted over the northern portion of Cagayan and the rest of Babuyan Islands.

Signal no. 3 was in effect in the northeastern portion of Isabela, the rest of Cagayan, Apayao, Ilocos Norte, the northern part of Kalinga, Batanes, and the northern portion of Abra.

The rest of Isabela, northern and central portions of Aurora, Quirino, the rest of Kalinga, the northeastern portion of Nueva Vizcaya, Ilocos Sur, the rest of Abra, Mountain Province, Ifugao, the northern portion of Benguet and the northern portion of La Union are under signal no. 2.

Quezon, including Polillo Islands, the rest of Aurora, the rest of Nueva Vizcaya, the rest of Benguet, the rest of La Union, Nueva Ecija, Pangasinan, Tarlac, Zambales, Bulacan, Pampanga, Bataan, Cavite, Metro Manila, Rizal, Laguna, Batangas, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Catanduanes and Marinduque are under signal no. 1.

In its 2 p.m. bulletin, PAGASA warned several areas of a possible storm surge that could cause flooding in Batanes, Cagayan including Babuyan Islands, Isabela, and Ilocos Norte, with surge heights possibly reaching three meters in some areas.

Its forecast also showed that the southwest monsoon or the habagat may dump rains over the western portions of Central Luzon, Southern Luzon, and Visayas for the next three days.

The super typhoon triggered evacuation orders for coastal communities expected to bear the brunt of the powerful storm.

Coastal communities in northwestern and northeastern Cagayan province had been ordered to evacuate their homes in anticipation of storm surges reaching or even exceeding three meters.

Three of the five Babuyan islands are inhabited, with a population of around 20,000 people.

Local disaster official Charles Castillejos said people living near the shores of those islands had been ordered to go inland, while fishermen had been told to get their boats out of the water.

“We sent the police to convince the hard-headed ones who refuse to evacuate,” Castillejos said.

Science and Technology Secretary Renato Solidum said people needed to be prepared for the typhoon because “things happen fast.”

“We need to remind our people the importance of readiness against storm surges, strong winds, and also possible floods,” Solidum said.

Some farmers in the northern province of Isabela, bordering Cagayan, were seen leading their livestock to safety ahead of the storm.

“Those living in coastal areas have been moved to higher ground,” Isabela provincial disaster officer Constante Foronda told local radio station dzBB.

“Our water search and rescue teams are now deployed in those areas most likely to be affected,” Foronda said.

The Philippines is hit by an average of 20 major storms each year that kill hundreds of people and keep vast regions in perpetual poverty.

Scientists have warned that such storms, which also kill livestock and destroy key infrastructure, are becoming more powerful as the world gets warmer because of climate change.

Boats, including wooden outriggers and passenger ferries that provide transport between islands, have been ordered to shore in Luzon and central islands due to gale warnings, stranding more than 11,000 people, the Philippine Coast Guard said.

By midday Wednesday, the storm was expected to have dumped more than 200 millimeters (7.9 inches) of rain on the islands and the northern portion of Cagayan, including Babuyan islands, as well as Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur provinces.

Heavy rain was also expected across the mountainous northern provinces in the coming days, with flooding and landslides “highly likely”, the weather agency said.

Cagayan provincial disaster officer Ruelie Rapsing told DZBB that emergency food packs had been stored in warehouses.

“The province has been on red alert status since Saturday and all evacuation centers, emergency operation centers of each town, and incident management teams are activated,” he said.

“Cagayanons are used to this.”

At least 36 domestic flights at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport have been canceled Tuesday due to bad weather conditions brought on by Typhoon Egay.

Suspended were 16 flights of Air Swift going to and from El Nido, Coron, and Romblon; two Sunlight Air flights to and from Busuanga, and Philippine Airlines (PAL) Express flights 2P 2198 and 2P2199 in Laoag.

Also canceled on Tuesday were 16 flights of Cebu Pacific Air (CEB) and its sister airline CebGo going to and from Cauayan, Masbate, Naga, San Jose, Tuguegarao, and Virac.

On Wednesday, CEB also suspended four flights to and from Tuguegarao and two flights in Cauayan.

Airline officials said the affected passengers have been informed through email and provided with options such as rebooking, applying their payment to a travel fund, or getting a refund.

Families affected by the combined effects of the southwest monsoon or “habagat” and Super Typhoon Egay have reached 4,554 in five regions in the country, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) reported Tuesday.

This is significantly higher than the 3,300 families reported on Monday, the agency said in its bulletin.

These 4,554 families are equivalent to 16,888 persons residing in 28 barangays in the Ilocos Region, Calabarzon, Bicol, Western Visayas, and Northern Mindanao.

Three evacuation centers were sheltering about 16 families consisting of about 38 individuals, while 12 families or 62 persons were receiving aid outside the centers.

According to the Office of Civil Defense, the affected families are a combination of those displaced and those whose livelihoods have been affected but do not need to be evacuated.

Police Regional Office 4-B (Mimaropa) chief Brig. Gen. Joel Doria has placed all police units and stations in the region on alert to ensure the safety of the public amid the possible effects of the super typhoon.

“We are working in close collaboration with local government units and relevant agencies to synchronize efforts and respond effectively to the potential impact of Typhoon Egay,” Doria said in a statement.

He also emphasized the activation of disaster response teams, strategically positioning trained personnel and essential resources in areas prone to the typhoon’s impact.

“We have proactively implemented measures to ensure the readiness of our teams,” Doria said.

Also on Tuesday, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) assured the public of the availability of relief goods in Ilocos Region and Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) field offices as Super Typhoon Egay battered the northeastern portion of mainland Cagayan province.

Work in the offices of the city government and the provincial government of Negros Occidental here was suspended Tuesday oon amid the bad weather brought about by Super Typhoon Egay.

In Bacolod, classes at all levels were also canceled although those affected were mostly private elementary and high school students as some private tertiary schools shifted to remote learning instead.

Since Tuesday morning, flooding has been reported in several areas of the city, including seven villages considered “critical” due to having low-lying communities and rising river waters.

“Precautionary evacuation is advised on these critical areas,” Mayor Alfredo Abelardo Benitez said in a statement.

Nineteen evacuation centers were opened in 14 barangays where at least 404 families, comprised of 1,569 individuals have already sought shelter.

Several families in Barangays Sum-ag, Pahanocoy, and Singcang-Airport, hit by knee-deep to neck-deep flood waters, were rescued by personnel of the Bureau of Fire Station.

At the Provincial Capitol, Gove. Eugenio Jose Lacson issued a memorandum suspending work from noon onwards due to the risk of heavy rains and floods.

He dispatched the provincial buses to take employees home after noon, adding that government transactions would resume until further notice.

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