Mindanao prepares for ‘Yolanda’

SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews / 6 Nov) – Although only in the peripheries of the path of super typhoon Yolanda, Mindanaons are busy preparing for its impact, afraid that they will be caught off guard as what happened in the last two years.

In this city and the province of Surigao del Norte, which are closest to Yolanda’s path, classes have already been suspended starting tomorrow by the City and Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Councils.

Gov. Sol F. Matugas also ordered as early as Tuesday the suspension of work in the capitol on Friday, when the super typhoon is expected to hit parts of the Visayas. She likewise urged everyone to pray as the provincial government offered a mass at the provincial convention center 4:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Constantino Arpon, chief meteorologist at the Surigao station of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), warned that there is a big possibility that Surigao del Norte – as well as the rest of the Caraga Region and Northern Mindanao – will be hit by the super typhoon.

He urged everyone to prepare because Yolanda will not just bring strong winds but also heavy rains that could be as much as 200 to 350mm.

As of 5 p.m. Wednesday, PAGASA reported that the eye of Yolanda (international code name: “Haiyan”) was located at 1,221 km east of Mindanao “with maximum sustained winds of 175 kph and gustiness of up to 210 kph” moving west northwest at 30 kph.

The Bukidnon Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, meanwhile, has started ringing the alarm bells to the province’s 20 towns and 2 cities.

Ma. Leah V. Barquez, PDRRMC point person, said the radio message they drafted, to be signed by Gov. Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr., strongly advises five measures, including the activation of all disaster command and auxiliary command centers in the locality and immediately mobilize the members of Local DRRMCs to operate such centers on a twenty-four hour basis.

The advisory cited the need to activate identified and designated evacuation centers and the deployment of trained personnel in food handling and in the orderly distribution of relief goods, medical, and counselling services.

According to Anianita Fortich, of PAGASA Northern Mindanao, super typhoon Yolanda was formed where typhoon Sendong started in the Pacific Ocean. She thus warned that Yolanda could still change course and hit Mindanao instead, adding that it even has stronger winds than Pablo.

In General Santos City, Dr. Agripino Dacera, acting head of the City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (CDRRMO), said they expect the area to experience heavier than normal rains within the next few days.

He said they already mobilized the city’s 26 barangay councils and their respective disaster teams to regularly monitor the weather condition and prepare some contingency measures.

General Santos City Mayor Ronnel Rivera called an emergency meeting of the CDRRM Council Wednesday afternoon to finalize the city’s preparations for the possible onslaught of typhoon Yolanda.

“We’re not taking any chances with this projected super typhoon so we will be drawing some measures to preempt its possible impact in our area,” the official said.

“We immediately alerted the city’s Liga ng mga Barangay on this matter so they can make some early preparations,” he said.

Although the typhoon was expected to have its landfall in areas within the Samar provinces and its center will not likely hit the southern part of Mindanao as cited by Pagasa, Dacera said it is still expected to affect the area since its track is quite wide.

At the worst situation, he said the area might experience prolonged heavy rains that might trigger severe floods, especially in the low-lying areas. (Roel N. Catoto & Walter I. Balane of MindaNews, with reports)