Typhoon Megi ("Juan") Leaves 12 Dead, Might Hit Philippines Again

Typhoon Megi ("Juan") Leaves 12 Dead, Might Hit Philippines Again

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MANILA, Philippines—The strongest typhoon in the world this year hit the country, making its way out of northern Luzon but its howling winds and continuous rains from Monday night to Tuesday morning left at least 12 people dead.

“Juan” is expected to leave the Philippine area of responsibility on Wednesday afternoon after slowing down in the South China Sea.

In another Inquirer.net report, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said Tuesday  that Typhoon “Juan” could be pushed back to the Philippines by two weather systems in the vicinity of China which were holding the typhoon back from its northwesterly track.

Science Undersecretary Graciano Yumul, PAGASA officer-in-charge, said "Juan" had become “quasi-stationary” as it moved away from the Philippine area of responsibility because of the two high-pressure areas northwest of the archipelago.

Many areas in northern Luzon remained without power and communications facilities a day after Super-typhoon “Juan” (international code name: Megi) ripped over the region with gusts of 260 kilometers per hour.

“The waves in Maconacon were as big as houses and swamped the town plaza facing the Pacific Ocean,” Isabela Gov. Faustino Dy said over dzBB radio as he appealed for help.

Dy said water, food and medicine were desperately needed in Maconacon, a village of about 4,000 people that remained isolated and only accessible by helicopter or by small boat.

Three people in Maconacon drowned in the storm surge and many others were wounded on Monday, he said.

Dy said he could not give a full report of the damage to all coastal areas because the 240-kilometer northeastern shoreline of Isabela remained difficult to reach.

The super-typhoon destroyed huge tracts of rice and corn crops, an official said, warning the country could be forced to import more rice.

Nearly 100,000 hectares of rice and corn crops had been destroyed across Isabela, one of the Philippines’ key farming regions, Governor Dy said.

The Philippines, the world’s largest rice importer, imported 2.4 million tons of rice last year.

Initial field reports are not encouraging, with the governor of the key agricultural province of Isabela estimating 385,000 tons of rice and 46,400 tons of corn will be lost.

Damage to agriculture was initially placed at more than P1.55 billion, with rice and vegetable farmers taking heavy losses, the Department of Agriculture said.

Assistant Agriculture Secretary Salvador Salacup said the figure was a “conservative” estimate.

The strong winds had dissipated after Juan moved off the west coast of Luzon early on Tuesday morning. But it continued to unleash rain after its trajectory toward China stalled and it hovered near Luzon throughout Tuesday.

“Its radius is 300 kilometers so even if it has left the country, rains will continue to affect us, probably until tonight,” said Benito Ramos, head of the national disaster monitoring council.

As of 11 p.m. Tuesday, Juan was spotted 280 km west northwest of Dagupan City, moving at 7 kph toward China. At its fastest, Juan moved at 24 kph.

The typhoon carried maximum winds of 175 kph near the center and gusts of up to 210 kph in the open sea.

At a 5 p.m. briefing Tuesday, Aldczar Aurelio, a junior government forecaster, said the typhoon was almost stationary in the South China Sea Tuesday morning. A high pressure area northwest of Juan prevented it from moving further for a few hours, he said.

Due to bad weather, eight flights to and from Batanes and Palawan were canceled at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Tuesday.

Schools were suspended in Metro Manila and other parts of Luzon amid fears of flash floods, while rescue workers tried to reach villagers stranded in remote areas that were cut off by the typhoon.

Buri Tree Kills 3

Elsewhere in Luzon, nine people were reported killed.

In Pangasinan, a mother and her two children were killed on Monday night in San Fabian town after a buri tree pinned them down while the typhoon was raging.

Paterno Orduña, executive officer of the provincial disaster council, identified the victims as Ana Vidal, 29, and her daughter EJ, 4, and son Ogie, 2.

The three were lying on the floor and were about to sleep at 7:30 p.m. when the tree fell on their house.

Their deaths brought to four the number of typhoon-related fatalities in Pangasinan. On Monday morning, Reddy Espinosa, a farmer in Mangatarem town, died after he was hit by lightning.

In Nueva Ecija, the provincial disaster council said Roberto Alcaybar drowned while he was crossing a river in Carranglan town on Monday night.

Electrocuted


In Benguet, the lone fatality was Broslie Badival who was electrocuted after stepping on a fallen power line on Monday night in La Trinidad town.

Typhoon-related fatalities were also reported in Baguio City, Kalinga and Cagayan.

Reports from the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) in the Cordillera Administrative Region said Andres Realina, a forest guard at the Busol watershed in Baguio City, died after a tree fell on the guard house where he was staying on Monday.

A woman in Rizal, Kalinga, was also killed when a tamarind tree, blown by strong winds, crashed on her house.

The OCD in Cagayan Valley said the body of Vicente Decena was swept away by strong current in the Cagayan River in Tuguegarao City also on Monday.

Reports from the Department of Social Welfare and Development said 181,742 people were taken to government evacuation centers in Baguio, Abra, Apayao, Benguet, Mountain Province and Kalinga.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council gave a smaller number. It said the number of evacuees almost tripled overnight to 8,529 persons as of Tuesday noon from 3,687 persons as of Monday afternoon.

The disaster council said 1,736 families consisting of 8,529 persons mostly from Cagayan, Isabela, Ilocos Sur, La Union and Pangasinan were housed in 52 evacuation centers.

The council said 110 families or 562 persons went to evacuation centers in Manila.

Drastic drop in Casualties

Mayor Gregorio Abalos Jr. of La Trinidad, Benguet, said the town was aiming for a zero fatality rate but the lone typhoon-related death in his town was a drastic drop from the 77 landslide deaths in Little Kibungan during last year’s onslaught of Typhoon “Pepeng” (Parma).

The evacuation of families still living near the danger zone in Little Kibungan helped minimize fatalities this year. Abalos had to bring along policemen to drive away 45 families from the community.

“Surely, [the fatality count] is low because people prepared better [this time], and they have been careful,” said Baguio Bishop Carlito Cenzon.

The OCD reported only six people hurt in the Cordillera.

Run-off water collected at the City Camp Lagoon in Baguio City reached 10 feet on Tuesday morning.

Apayao’s Maranas River overflowed, obstructing traffic in a section of the Apayao-Ilocos Norte Road. Kms 668 and 672 of the Claveria-Calanasan Road are still closed due to landslides.

All roads leading to Kalinga have been closed due to landslides.

Kennon Road Closed

The Mountain Province towns of Natonin, Paracelis and Sadanga have been isolated by landslides, said Edilberto Carabbacan, Cordillera director of the Department of Public Works and Highways.

The OCD said road cuts closed Kilometer 400 of the Mt. Province-Ilocos Sur Road; the Mt. Province-Cagayan Road traversing the Tabuk-Enrile Road; Kilometer 410 of the Mutiti-Ampawilen Road; and Kilometer 420 of the Malanas-Mamaga Road, both in the Sadanga section of Mountain Province.

Landslides also hit Kilometer 378 of the Halsema Highway (Gonogon section leading to Bontoc, Mountain Province), the main route bridging vegetable farms and the trading post at La Trinidad, Benguet.

Kennon Road, a major route to and from Baguio, has been closed for clearing operations due to rock slides.

Landslides cut off the Bokod-Kabayan Road and the Benguet-Nueva Vizcaya Road in Benguet; and Kilometers 381 and 407 of the Banaue-Mayoyao-Alfonso Lista Road and the Mayoyao-Aguinaldo Road, both in Ifugao.

Harvest Season

Although the northern third of the country is regularly struck by typhoons, the timing of Juan was crucial because it coincided with the biggest of the year’s four harvests, said Maura Lizarondo, assistant director of the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics.

Isabela is part of Cagayan Valley region, which accounted for 13.25 percent of last year’s rice output and 24.26 percent of corn production, he said.

The agriculture department said Ilocos (Region I), Cagayan Valley (Region II) and Central Luzon (Region III) were seriously affected. Damage to corn was pegged at P396 million.

The department said 815 metric tons of vegetables were destroyed in Region II. The typhoon destroyed P1.7 million worth of palay (unmilled rice), fruits and vegetables in Abra, according to the OCD.

Salacup said 90 percent of the corn planted had been harvested. It was still too early to tell the palay situation, he said.

But as of 11 a.m. Tuesday, 70,000 metric tons of palay were damaged, much lower than the worst-case scenario of 600,000 MT, he said.

Based on the report of National Food Authority Administrator Angelito Banayo, there is sufficient rice in NFA warehouses to meet the country’s needs in the next 52 days, Salacup said.

This despite the 804 metric tons of rice ruined in the NFA warehouses in Isabela, the country’s second-largest rice-producing province, the agriculture department said.

Outages


Several areas in northern Luzon may have to endure four to seven days of outages due to the extensive damage to transmission lines.

“Damage was worse than expected. For one, 11 (of the 50) towers of the Gamu-Tuguegarao 230 kilovolt (kV) were toppled,” said Cynthia Alabanza, spokesperson of National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP), the country’s transmission operator.

Alabanza said longer power outages in Cagayan, northern Isabela, Kalinga and Apayao were due primarily to the extensive damage to the 80-km Gamu-Tuguegarao line, one of the most crucial lines in north Luzon.

Among the NGCP-owned 69 kV transmission lines that were damaged were the Tuguegarao–Magapit, Magapit–Sta. Ana, Tuguegarao–Tabuk, La Trinidad–Bulalacao, San Manuel-Manaoag, Bayombong-Lagawe, Bongabon–Baler and the Bauang–Naguillan lines.

Also damaged were the Kadampat-Masinloc 230kV; San Manuel-Kadampat 500kV; Binga–San Manuel 230 kV Line 1; and the Santiago-Gamu 230 kV.

Early Evacuation

The Pangasinan disaster council said there could have been more casualties in the province had authorities not conducted forced evacuation of people, especially in the coastal areas.

On Tuesday morning, several high-rise buildings in Dagupan City had shattered glass windows and leaves and tree branches littered the roads.

Flooding was also reported in low-lying areas of Labrador and Manaoag towns.

Ilocos Norte Spared

It was business as usual in Ilocos Norte as Juan weakened, bringing minimal rains and winds on Tuesday.

Gov. Imee Marcos said the province suffered no major damage after the storm changed course bringing minimal rain since Sunday night.

The Laoag City and Ilocos Norte disaster councils reported no typhoon-related casualty or damage to infrastructure despite strong winds and occasional heavy rain dumped by Juan.

The towns of Bangui, Pagudpud, Adams and Dumalneg, which are serviced by the Bangui wind power plant and the hydroelectric plant of the Ilocos Norte Electric Cooperative (INEC), experienced power interruptions after the two facilities were shut down on Monday.

Renato Balintec, INEC general manager, said several towns went without power on Monday night due to system shutdown. But power was immediately restored after lines were normalized.

Central Luzon

In a 2 p.m. update on Tuesday, the OCD in Central Luzon said 6,168 people were affected by floods in 15 villages in Dilasag, Dinalungan and Casiguran in Aurora; Malolos City in Bulacan; Carranglan in Nueva Ecija; San Clemente and Paniqui in Tarlac; and Macabebe in Pampanga.

At least 2,172 people were transferred to evacuation centers.

Preemptive evacuations were done in Barangay Pit-ao in San Clemente, Tarlac, as floodwaters rose to between three and four feet after a dike along the Batacan River was damaged.

In Pampanga, the provincial disaster council on Tuesday ordered the forced evacuation of 54 families in San Juan Baño in Arayat town to protect them from another landslide.

Provincial administrator Andres Pangilinan Jr. said the council decided to evacuate some 200 families living along the Guemasan and Cupang stretch of the Arayat-Apalit setback levee.

Photocredit: ELMER KRISTIAN DAUIGOY/ INQUIRER NORTHERN LUZON


With reports from Gabriel Cardinoza, Yolanda Sotelo, Vincent Cabreza, Villamor Visaya Jr., Cristina Arzadon, Delmar Cariño, Maurice Malanes, Johanna Morden and Ben Moses Ebreo, Inquirer Northern Luzon, and Tonette Orejas, Anselmo Roque, Armand Galang and Carmela Reyes, Inquirer Central Luzon; Dona Pazzibugan and Jerome Aning in Manila; and Agence France-Presse