MANILA (UPDATE) - Tropical storm Pepito's strong winds and rainfall inundated parts of Luzon Tuesday evening, forcing hundreds of residents to evacuate as the COVID-19 pandemic persisted, officials said Wednesday.
"No major untoward incident" has been reported so far while some 9 villages in Nueva Ecija and Lopez town, Quezon were flooded, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.
Some 1,000 vehicles were stranded along Lopez town's national highway due to flooding as of 8 a.m., local police said.
Landslides were reported in Sta. Ana Cagayan but has since been cleared out and roads are now passable, said NDRRMC spokesperson Mark Timbal.
"Wala pang casualty na naiuulat. We’re hoping na yung maagang paghahanda ng LGUs (local government units) natin ang nagbunsod nito," he told ABS-CBN's Teleradyo.
(No casualties have been reported so far. We're hoping the LGUs preparation resulted in this.)
"Ang challenge po kasi dito yung mismong nagmamando ng ating COVID response sa ground sila rin ang responders natin sa emergencies kagaya ng bagyo...Pati ang evacuees natin dapat protected din at observe pa rin ang physical distancing measure."
(The challenge here is those who command our COVID-19 response on the ground are also our emergency responders...Our evacuees should also be protected and physical distancing should still be observed.)
The storm caused "minimal damage" in Aurora and prompted the evacuation of some 177 families, according to its Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office.
Some 183 persons or 49 families were forced to evacuate in facilities separate from individuals that might be carrying the coronavirus in Casiguran town, Aurora, where Pepito made landfall on Tuesday evening, its mayor Ricardo Bitong said.
The evacuees are now on their way home, he said. The town is under modified general community quarantine and has zero coronavirus cases, he added.
"Okay naman kasi di naman ganun kalakas ang tama, mga bandang 9 to 10 ng gabi kagabi naglandfall yung bagyong Pepito pero di naman ganun kalakasan," he told AS-CBN's Teleradyo.
(It was okay, Pepito did not hit us that hard, it made landfall around 9-10 p.m. but it was not that strong.)
The mayor said he has yet to receive reports on the storm's agricultural damage.
"Maganda pa naman po sana ang anihan ngayong period na ito," he said.
(It would have been a good harvest season.)
In Dinalungan town, Aurora, more than 100 individuals from coastal and river-side areas were also evacuated, isolating suspected COVID-19 cases, its mayor Manuel Torres said.
The town has yet to record a coronavirus case, he added.
"Okay naman po, kami po’y nagpapasalamat lumakas ang hangin subalit di naman po kalakasan at katagal," he told Teleradyo.
(We're okay, we're thankful the strong winds did not persist for long.)
The country's 16th storm this year was last estimated 40 kilometers north northwest of Dagupan City, Pangasinan as of 4 a.m., packing maximum winds of up to 75 km per hour and gusts of up to 115 kph as it emerged over Lingayen Gulf and headed towards the West Philippine Sea.
Pepito is forecast to leave the Philippine area of responsibility on Thursday if it continues to move west northwest at 30 kph, the state weather bureau said.
--With reports from Jeck Batallones and Dennis Datu, ABS-CBN News