Low pressure area nearing Mindanao; PAGASA warns vs landslides, flashfloods

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/24 December) –  Residents in flood-prone and landslide-prone areas in eastern and northern Mindanao are being urged to move to evacuation centers as the low pressure area (LPA) nearing Mindanao, the weather bureau warned, may trigger landslides and flashfloods.

But survivors of Typhoon Pablo, the super typhoon that battered Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley on December 4, are facing even bigger problems: where will they evacuate?

Davao Oriental Governor Corazon Malanyaon said she hopes the LPA does not turn into a tropical depression because  “where do you evacuate more than 100,000 residents?”

In its 5 p.m. advisory, the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA)  said the LPA was estimated at 4 p.m. to be 480 km east of Northern Mindanao.

“Caraga, Eastern Visayas and Bicol regions will be cloudy with occasional moderate to heavy rains and thunderstorms which may trigger flashfloods and landslides. The rest of Visayas and Mindanao will have occasional light to moderate rainshowers and thunderstorms,” PAGASA said

Caraga comprises the provinces of Agusan del Sur and Agusan del Norte, Surigao del Sur and Surigao del Norte.

Agusan del Sur shares boundaries with  Compostela Valley and Surigao del Sur,  Surigao del Sur with Davao Oriental and Davao Oriental with Compostela Valley.

After Typhoon Pablo made landfall in Baganga, Davao Oriental dawn of December 4 and left behind a wide swath of destruction, Malanyaon said she urged residents to “get out of the area” and seek refuge in the homes of relatives outside the typhoon-stricken towns of Baganga, Cateel and Boston, especially since this month up to March, based on their usual weather pattern in the area, is rainy season.

“The thought of people getting wet,” she told MindaNews in a telephone interview Monday afternoon, worries her, especially residents who have no other options because they  have no relatives elsewhere.

She said no-build zones will be strictly implemented as the provincial government works on the relocation of  residents who need to be moved out of  high-risk areas. The construction of bunkhouses which will serve as temporary shelter for the displaced has not been finished.

Thousands of residents lost their homes and livelihood because of  Typhoon Pablo. Hundreds of residents are still seeking shelter in makeshift tents along the road.

Typhoon Pablo not only destroyed lives, homes and livelihood, it also destroyed the remaining forest cover, making the devastated areas even more prone to landslides and fashfloods with or without a low pressure area or another typhoon.

PAGASA issued a special weather forecast for Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley – the two provinces hardest hit by Typhoon Pablo – at 11 a.m. PAGASA said the two provinces will be “cloudy with occasional light to moderate rains of 1 to 5 mm per hour tonight and tomorrow.”

In its extended weather outlook, the two provinces will experience “cloudy with occasional light to moderate rains of 5 to 10 mm per hour on December 26 and 27 due to the passage of the LPA.

At 5 p.m. also on Monday, PAGASA issued a gale warning stating that “strong to gale force wind is expected to affect the seaboards of Luzon and the eastern seaboard of Visayas and Mindanao.”

Mindanao’s Surigao del Norte including Siargao Island,  the country’s surfing capita; Surigao del Sur, Dinagat Islands and Davao Oriental will experience “cloudy skies with scattered rainshowers and thunderstorms and the sea condition in these provinces as well as Samar and Leyte in the Visayas is “rough to very rough.”

Compostela Governor Arturo Uy  told MindaNews at 2 p.m. Monday that in New Bataan, which had the highest number of deaths at 421,  preemptive evacuation has been done. “We are monitoring the rainfall.. Some families in the poblacion have evacuated,” he said.

Uy said some families also evacuated to Tagum City in neighboring Davao del Norte but he could not provide the number.

Survivors of the typhoon in New Bataan are still staying in five evacuation centers in the poblacion.

As of 4:45 p.m. December 23,  the command center in New Bataan listed  at least 421 persons dead, 171 injured while 418 remained missing.

Uy said an advisory had been issued to the mining areas in the province, including the gold-rush area, Diwalwal.

To date, it is not clear how many persons died in Diwalwal and other mining sites in the province.

An update report by the province as of December 20 listed 591 dead in Compostela province.

In Veruela, Agusan del Sur, Mayor Salimar Mondejar told MindaNews in a text message at 3:45 p.m. that they had not undertaken preemptive evacuation but were  preparing for it.

Fourteen of Veruela’s 20 towns were classified flood-prone before Typhoon Pablo struck.

In Surigao City, the Philippine Information Agency reported that “due to the incoming heavy rains brought about by the LPA affecting Surigao City,” the City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council will hold an emergency meeting at 9 a.m. tomorrow,  Christmas Day.

MindaNews sought officials in Butuan and Agusan del Sur on their preparations for the LPA but as of 6 p.m. had yet to receive their response.

While Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley have been experiencing rains the past few days, no rain was reported in Surigao and Butuan cities on Monday.  (Carolyn O. Arguillas, Vanessa Almeda and Erwin Mascarinas/MindaNews)