CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/24 October) — At least 600 passengers were stranded when gale force winds triggered by tropical storm “Ofel” forced Coast Guard officials here to prevent nine interisland ships from venturing out to sea for three nights in a row starting Monday.
Seaman Muktar Sapal, duty officer at the Philippine Coast Guard operations center said Wednesday that most of the affected ships were bound for Cebu, Bohol and Camiguin Islands where the sea was “very rough” due to the combined effects of the northeast monsoon and tropical storm “Ofel.”
The stranded passengers found shelter at the port terminal building.
Sapal said that since Monday, “the waves were really strong. Then PAGASA (Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomic Services Administration) raised Storm Siganal No. 1 over the Visayas sea so we had to suspend all travel,” Sapal said.
Sapal said five ferries plying Camiguin island and Misamis Oriental were also prevented from leaving the ports of Benoni and Balingoan towns.
PAGASA earlier hoisted storm signal no. 1 over Misamis Oriental, northern parts of Bukidnon, Agusan provinces, Siargao island and Surigao del Norte.
But as of 4 a.m. Thursday, the center of tropical storm “Ofel” was estimated based on satellite and surface data over Sibuyan Island, Romblon with maximum sustained winds of 65 kph near the center and gustiness of up to 80 kph. It is forecast to move West Northwest at 20 kph.
PAGASA said “Batangas, Lubang Island, Mindoro Provinces, Marinduque, Romblon, Masbate including Ticao Island, Panay Island, Guimaras and the Northern part of Negros Occidental will experience stormy weather with rough to very rough seas.”
Metro Manila, Bataan, Zambales, Pampanga, Bulacan, the rest of Calabarzon, the rest of Bicol Region, Calamian and Cuyo Islands, Burias Island and the southern part of Quezon Province, Eastern Visayas, Cebu, Camotes Island and the rest of Negros Provinces “will have rains with gusty winds with moderate to rough seas” while the rest of the country will be “cloudy with moderate to heavy rainshowers or thunderstorms which may trigger flashfloods and landslides.”
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Center reported that flash floods damaged five houses in Barangay Sudapin in Kidapawan City on October 23.
Strong rains and winds also forced the cancellation of three Cebu Pacific flights from Butuan City to Cebu, Manila and Davao.
The Coast Guard also stopped the ferries from plying from Lipata port in Surigao City and Liloan port in Leyte. (Froilan Gallardo/MindaNews)