Huge waves, strong winds pummel Surigao

SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews/18 January)—Tropical depression Agaton triggered strong winds and huge waves in Surigao del Norte since Friday, prompting naval authorities to suspend sea travel, stranding at least 250 passengers here.

At least 100 individuals from Barangay Washington here also already fled to the Provincial Convention Center since yesterday as storm signal number 1 was hoisted over seven provinces in Mindanao.

MindaNews saw waves as high as about seven feet pounding coastal areas in this city on Saturday afternoon.But there is no report of injuries as of this posting.

As of 4 p.m. Saturday, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said the center of the tropical depression was spotted 185 kilometers (km) east of Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur and 305 km southeast of this city, indicating a change in direction.

It packed maximum sustained winds of 55 kilometers per hour near the center, PAGASA said.

Earlier at 11 am today, PAGASA said that Agaton was located 145 kilometers east of this city.

Agaton is forecast to be at 185 km east of Hinatuan town on Sunday afternoon, 15 km southeast also of Hinatuan on Monday afternoon, and 100 km southeast of Davao City on Tuesday afternoon.

The weather bureau placed under storm signal number 1 the Mindanao provinces of Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur, Dinagat Province, Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley.

Since Friday, the Philippine Coast Guard here has barred boats from traveling to Dinagat, Siargao, Bucas Grande and Surigao Islands, including Leyte in the Visayas, said Zenmond Duque, PCG-Surigao station commander.

“We advise passengers not to proceed to any seaports but to temporarily seek shelter with their family or friends for safety and to avoid more passengers being stranded at the different ports in the city,” he said.

At least 247 passengers have been stranded in the two seaports here, Duque added.

Residents in the coastal villages of Mabua, Ipil, Lipata, Punta Bilar and Sabang were prepared since Thursday, as shown by the fishing boats that were placed in higher grounds.

In Mainit town, water level in the lake has risen, forcing some residents living beside the lake to evacuate. The water level nearly reached the national highway along the stretch of Alegria and Kitcharao towns.

In the past few days, intermittent heavy rains battered Surigao del Norte that triggered flashfloods and landslides.

The province has been placed under a state of calamity last Monday.

Vice Governor Arturo Carlos Egay Jr., a lawyer, said earlier the declaration will allow the mobilization “of all resources available both in the public and private sectors.”

Under a state of calamity, we can ask bus companies and other public and private utilities to bring people to safer grounds, he added.

A day before the calamity declaration, some buses owned by the Bachelor Express, Inc. already brought residents living near the Surigao River to evacuation centers. (Roel N. Catoto/MindaNews)