(UPDATE) Typhoon ‘Pepeng’ continues to pummel Northern Luzon

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 04 2009 09:30 PM | Updated as of Oct 05 2009 07:25 AM

 Agriculture damage at least P5.5-B

MANILA, - Large parts of northern Luzon were flooded and without power Sunday after Typhoon “Pepeng” (international codename Parma) lashed the area, while authorities announced that the typhoon could still continue to pound the area for more than 3 days.

Exactly one week after Tropical Storm “Ondoy (international code name Ketsana) dumped the heaviest rains in more than 40 years that devastated Manila, killing nearly 300 people, “Pepeng” ripped through Northern Luzon starting Saturday.

Two separate landslides buried homes in the province of Benguet, killing 12 people on Saturday.

In the town of Itogon, 7 construction workers were killed, all of whom were relatives. They were reportedly sleeping in a hut when the landslide occurred around midnight. A family of five, including a 10-month-old infant, was also killed in a landslide that occurred in Barangay Beckel in La Trinidad town.

1 was reported killed meanwhile in northern Isabela as “Pepeng” made landfall in northern Luzon Saturday afternoon. The fatality reportedly died of hypothermia.

The National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC), in its 4 p.m. update on the typhoon, reported 2 deaths in Camarines Sur.

The report said Roger Moreno in Naga City fell while attempting to repair a damaged roof while Edwin Domagsang of Baao town, also in Camarines Sur, was swept by a strong current while crossing a spillway last Friday.

NDCC also said that 2 were reported missing, 1 in Pangasinan and 1 in Benguet. 3 persons meanwhile were reported injured – 2 in Benguet and 1 in Kalinga.

Power, communications outage

Many areas in the north remained without power and cut off from communications on Sunday as “Pepeng” hovered over the South China Sea. Roads were submerged or littered with fallen trees and toppled power lines.

The NDCC said province-wide blackouts were being experienced in Apayao, Kalinga, Abra and Ifugao. Power outage was also experienced in Tuguegarao City and the northern portion of Cagayan province. Several areas of Ilocos Norte and La Union were also reported to be experiencing cut-offs in their electricity supply.

"The winds were very strong. There is no power here. There is extensive damage to houses, electrical posts were toppled," Delfin Ting, mayor of Tuguegarao, the capital city of Cagayan, told local radio.

Telecommunications in Cagayan province meanwhile was reported by NDCC to be intermittent. This includes telecoms services by Philippine Long Distance Co., Globe Telecoms and Smart Communications.

Floods

924 houses meanwhile were reported affected by flooding in Ilocos Norte while 6 houses were damaged by the landslides in Benguet province.

Initial reports to NDCC of areas affected by floods showed 57 barangays in Ilocos Sur and 4 barangays in Pangasinan.

Flooding was also reported in lower Apayao towns such as Flora, Luna, Pudtol and Sta. Marcel.

At least 6 villages were reported submerged in floodwaters as deep as 6 feet in Baguio City.

Among the villages affected were those near the lagoon area, particularly Barangays City Camp, Mirador, Irisan and Queen Of Peace as well as Marville Subdivision and DPS Compound.

More than 200 families were evacuated but many more people were reportedly still trapped in their homes. Due to lack of rubber boats, authorities used the boats in Burnham Park Lake for their search and rescue operations.

Landslides were also reported in some parts of Baguio particularly in Bakakeng, Camp 7, Magsaysay, Bukawkan, Puliwes and San Luis Village as well as in Bengao, Tuba section of the Marcos Highway and Barangay Puguis in Benguet.

A dike in San Nicolas town in Pangasinan province was also reported by NDCC to be in danger of totally eroding due to a huge volume of water flowing in Calabasian River. The NDCC said a break in the dike would result to massive flooding that would reach as far as Tayug also in Pangasinan.

The NDCC 4 p.m. update warned of more floodings as Apayao and Chico were reported to be already swollen.

An 8 p.m. Sunday update by weather agency Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), indicated that Binga, Ambukla, Magat and Pantabangan dams meanwhile, were spilling water.

Evacuation centers

NDCC also said that 152,775 persons or 32,055 families in 492 barangays in the regions affected by “Pepeng” have so far been reported affected. These include Regions I, II, III, V, Cordillera Administrative Region and Metro Manila. It said 11,055 families or 50,106 persons are staying in 232 evacuation centers.

35,486 families or 169,941 persons underwent pre-emptive evacuation in provinces in the affected regions including Calabarzon.

National Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. who is also NDCC chair has praised the pre-emptive evacuation launched by the government with the cooperation of local officials. He said this actions minimized the number of casualties due to “Pepeng.”

Albay provincial officials, after “Pepeng” left Bicol region, meanwhile has started decampment of evacuees Sunday.

Ilocos provinces, Abra

The provinces of Ilocos Sur, Ilocos Norte and Abra meanwhile have been reported Sunday afternoon to be suffering from non-stop strong winds and rains due to Typhoon “Pepeng”. A report received by ABS-CBN News said that the three provinces were experiencing the strong winds and rains of the typhoon for 15 hours already.

Weather specialist Nathaniel Cruz, in a 5 p.m, briefing by PAGASA, said the recorded rainfall from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday in Laoag City in Ilocos Norte has already reached 201 mm while and 169 mm in Vigan in Ilocos Sur.

Cruz said that their station in Laoag City reported being hit by sustained 120 kph winds. He also said that the PAGASA station was almost hit by a “flying guardhouse” carried by the strong gusts due to “Pepeng.”

Rice crop damage

Aurora Gov. Bellaflor Angara-Castillo said swathes of rice fields were under water, which could cause supply problems in the next few months.

"The rains heavily damaged our rice fields," she said over local radio. "We are trying to bring back everything to normal, but that will take time."

Cagayan Gov. Alvaro Antonio meanwhile said the destruction to the province reached almost P1 billion including damage to infrastructure brought by “Pepeng.” The Regional Disaster Coordinating Council said the rice and corn crops that were flooded are the main source of living of the province’s residents. It will reportedly take them another cropping season to recover.

The agriculture department estimated the damage to crops was at least P5.5 billion (117 million dollars) so far, and said the figure was expected to rise.

While supply of rice is adequate for the year, President Arroyo ordered agriculture officials to import rice to augment stocks for 2010.

Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap said the government has a buffer stock of 30-35 days until the end of 2009.

"We are waiting for the water level to subside and determine the extent of the damage on rice farms," Yap said, adding the government is prepared to provide 100-percent seed subsidy to affected farmers in typhoon-hit areas.

The October-December quarter is usually the biggest harvest period for rice farmers in the Philippines and the government had forecast unmilled rice output in the period would reach 6.48 million tons, up 4 percent from the previous year.

The country was hoping to harvest a record 17.45 million tons of paddy rice for all of 2009, with first-half output at 7.38 million tons.

“Extended stay”

The misery of residents especially in Northern Luzon however is still not over as the state weather agency forecasted that “Pepeng” may linger longer than earlier expected and warned of landslides and floods especially in the northern and western parts of Luzon.

“From almost outside the Philippine area of responsibility, it will make a recurvature and possibly pass the northern portion of Luzon for the second time,” said Nathaniel Cruz, Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) weather specialist, in a briefing Sunday 5 p.m..

In its 11 p.m. update, PAGASA said the center of “Pepeng” was located, as of 10:00 p.m., to be 200 kilometers north northwest of Laoag City and remains with maximum sustained winds of 120 kilometers per hour near center and gustiness of 150 kph.

PAGASA said the typhoon has remained “almost stationary” and Cruz said that it was slowly moving in a west northwest direction.

He described that PAGASA forecasts the typhoon to make a “looping action” and make a counterclockwise “U-turn,” He said the typhoon may again make landfall probably in the northwestern part of Luzon before exiting the Philippines.

The PAGASA bulletin issued at 11 p.m. shows that the typhoon would be 260 kilometers north northwest of Laoag City by Monday evening, 290 kms north northwest of Laoag City by Tuesday evening and 270 kms northwest of Laoag City by Wednesday evening.

When asked how long the typhoon would affect the country, Cruz said: “Most likely it may be longer than 3 days… Di pa tapos ang (bagyong) Pepeng.”

“Melor”

Cruz said that the movement of “Pepeng” is being affected by Typhoon "Melor” which is located 600 kilometers east of the Philippine area of responsibility. He said “Melor” has sustained wind intensity of 195 kph and is moving 24 kph west northwest.

He said however that Melor is not expected to make landfall in the Philippines and will likely “move towards north then northeast and out of the Philippine area of responsibility.” When it enters the Philippine area of responsibility, the typhoon would be locally called “Quedan.”

When “Melor” does take a northeast direction, Cruz said, that is when “Pepeng” is expected to also move on a northeast direction.

He however discounted the possibility of “Pepeng” and “Melor merging into one typhoon.

Expect floods and landslides

With “Pepeng” staying longer in the Philippines and possibly making a second landfall in northwestern Luzon after Wednesday afternoon, Cruz warned of floods and landslides covered by “Pepeng’s” wide swathe of clouds.

“Tuloy ang stormy weather sa northwestern Luzon,” said Cruz.

Public Storm Signal No. 3 remains over Batanes Group of Islands, Northern Cagayan, Babuyan and Calayan Islands, Ilocos Norte and Apayao. Storm Signal No. 2 meanwhile is still hoisted over Ilocos Sur, Abra, Kalinga and the rest of Cagayan. Strom Signal No. 1 remains over La Union, Benguet, Mt. Province and Northern Isabela.

Cruz warned residents in low-lying areas and near mountain slopes under Signal Nos. 3, 2 and 1 especially in the western and northern parts of Luzon to expect more rains and advised residents to take all the necessary precautionary measures against flashfloods and landslides.

Those living along the coast in areas under Signal Nos. 2 and 3 are advised to be on alert against big waves generated by the typhoon, PAGASA added in its bulletin.

He said that the rest of Luzon including Metro Manila which is still recovering form floods of Tropical Storm “Ondoy” would experience cloudiness and rain “but not as bad as Ondoy.”

Meanwhile, many areas in Manila and nearby eastern provinces remained flooded more than a week after “Ondoy” dumped a month's worth of rain in nine hours.

International aid has been trickling in, although authorities said many areas remain under-served amid warnings of disease outbreaks in overcrowded camps. With ABS-CBN Regional Network Group, Agence France-Presse and Reuters