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Visayas, Mindanao brace for ‘Yolanda’

manila bulletin

THE BIG ONE COMING IN FAST – A state weather forecaster points to a powerful tropical cyclone internationally named ‘Haiyan’ heading fast towards the Philippines yesterday. The super typhoon, packing winds of more than 185 kilometers per hour, will be named ‘Yolanda’ once it enters the Philippine area of responsibility. (Mark Balmores)

Manila, Philippines – President Benigno S. Aquino III yesterday placed concerned government agencies on “heightened alert” to prepare contingency measures and prevent the loss of life in anticipation of the onslaught of typhoon Haiyan.

US-based AccuWeather said that typhoon Haiyan, which will be named “Yolanda” when it enters the Philippine area of responsibility (PAR) possibly today, is a serious threat to lives and property around the Philippines.

AccuWeather said Haiyan will rival typhoon “Labuyo” (international name Utor) as the strongest typhoon to hit the country this year.

“In anticipation of the entry of super typhoon Yolanda in the PAR on Thursday, President Aquino has directed Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, head of the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC), to mobilize all provincial and municipal disaster risk reduction and management councils to prepare the people and protect them from danger,” Presidential Communication Operations Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said in Filipino.

Haiyan rapidly intensified into a powerful typhoon and is heading toward the general direction of the Eastern Visayas region. It continues to pick up strength over the Pacific Ocean, just 1,411 kilometers (km) east of Mindanao, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said.

Super Typhoon

From 120 kilometers per hour (kph) of maximum winds and 150 kph of gustiness last Tuesday, Haiyan has picked up more strength yesterday afternoon with maximum sustained winds of 150 kph and gustiness of up to 210 kph, placing it under the super typhoon category. But PAGASA does not use super typhoon to categorize tropical cyclones.

From an initial speed and direction of 25 kph westward last Tuesday, Haiyan moved faster at 30 kph west-northwestward or toward the Samar-Leyte provinces.

In a statement issued Tuesday (Wednesday, Manila time), meteorologist Eric Wanenchak said Haiyan will likely approach super typhoon status.

But Joint Typhoon Warning Center, another US-based agency, upgraded Haiyan to super typhoon status yesterday morning, packing peak winds of 130 knots or 241 kph.

PAGASA Weather Forecasting Section Chief Rene Paciente said “Yolanda” is projected to make landfall over Samar or Leyte between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Friday.

The typhoon is forecast to enter Philippine waters on Thursday morning. It is most likely that PAGASA will raise public storm warning Signal No. 1, particularly over the Eastern Visayas region, as soon as the typhoon enters the country’s vicinity, said Paciente. Signal No. 4, the highest PAGASA storm warning, could be raised over areas that will be directly hit by the typhoon as early as Thursday evening.

Moderate To Heavy Rains

Paciente pointed out that Eastern Visayas will begin to experience moderate to heavy rains Thursday afternoon.

Before its forecast landfall, Haiyan will likely reach peak winds of up to 250 kph, he added. Haiyan will move across Samar-Leyte area, Masbate, northern Cebu, Romblon, northern Panay, southern Mindoro, then northern Palawan, he said.

Wanenchak said rain and wind will increase across the east-central Visayas Thursday night (local time) with conditions deteriorating from east to west Friday through Friday night as the powerful typhoon crosses the islands.

He said widespread torrential rain and damaging winds will accompany Haiyan through the central Visayas, threatening to leave a trail of destruction and triggering life-threatening flash floods.

Wanenchak further said that Haiyan will also produce a severe and inundating storm surge, especially along the eastern coast of southern Luzon and Samar islands.

Wanenchak said the worst of the storm will bypass Manila, but damaging winds of 80 to 120 kph and rainfall of 100 to 200 mm are still expected.

Signal 2 In Metro Manila?

It is also possible that Signal No. 2 will be raised over Metro Manila once the typhoon moves toward the West Philippine Sea, he added. Light to heavy rains are expected over the metropolis beginning Friday afternoon.

Paciente warned the public that the typhoon could cause “severe damage” due to its huge diameter of 600 meters, “covering the whole Visayas and part of Luzon.”

If it maintains its present track, Haiyan will be outside PAR by Saturday evening or early Sunday. He noted improving weather condition by Sunday.

After slamming the Philippines, Haiyan will remain a dangerous cyclone as it emerges into the West Philippine Sea and continues to move to the west-northwest on Saturday.

The eventual track of Haiyan will bring the storm toward Vietnam by late Sunday into Monday.

Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Mar Roxas directed all governors and mayors in the Bicol Region, Eastern Visayas, and Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, and Palawan) to activate their local disaster risk reduction and management councils (LDRRMC) and disaster monitoring systems in light of the approaching typhoon.

Roxas directed the local executives to adopt measures on how to effectively warn residents, particularly those living along the coastlines and other danger areas, on the possible impact of Tropical Depression Yolanda in their respective areas.

Class Suspensions

In Albay, Governor Joey Salceda suspended yesterday the work in all government offices and classes in all levels in the province in anticipation of the adverse effects of typhoon.

In an advisory issued yesterday and which was also posted on his Facebook account, Salceda explained that the move is aimed at ensuring disaster avoidance and to achieve zero-casualty in the province.

Classes in Sorsogon were also ordered suspended.

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), meanwhile, has gone in heightened alert status as it braces for the super typhoon.

PCG Commandant Rear Admiral Rodolfo Isorena directed all Coast Guard units in affected areas especially in Visayas region to prepare its rescue teams for the coming onslaught. (With reports from Aaron B. Recuenco, Czarina Nicole O. Ong, Raymund F. Antonio, and Sarah Imperial)