CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 26 Nov) – Authorities here ordered the preemptive evacuation of pregnant women, children, the elderly and persons with disability as Tropical Depression “Queenie” intensifies as it nears landfall in Surigao del Sur early Wednesday night.
Teddy Sabugaa, chief of the Cagayan de Oro Social Welfare Department, said barangay officials were instructed to start the evacuation of the vulnerable sector living dangerously close to Cagayan de Oro River, Iponan River and Bigaan Creek.
“We have raised the alert level from yellow to orange. Those who we have evacuated will have to spend the night at the evacuation centers,” Sabugaa said.
The City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (CDRRDMC) had earlier suspended classes in all elementary schools in the city when it raised the yellow alert status Wednesday morning.
Purito Velez, information officer of the Office of Civil Defense Region 10, said the Philippine Coast Guard has suspended all sea operations in all ports in Northern Mindanao Wednesday night.
Velez said ferry service between Mukas in Kolambugan, Lanao del Norte and Ozamiz City has also been suspended starting 5 p.m. Wednesday until 5 a.m. Thursday.
He said commercial sea transportation between Northern Mindanao and the Visayas – including those between Camiguin Island, Misamis Oriental and Bohol – were also suspended.
Velez said all flights to and from Siargao Island in Surigao del Norte have already been cancelled earlier today.
“We still do not have any data how many passengers and vehicles will be affected by the suspension of sea operations,” Velez said.
He said elementary and high school classes in all schools in Misamis Oriental, as well as in Ozamiz City and six towns in Misamis Occidental, were also ordered suspended.
Velez said the Department of Health has ordered all of its personnel to be on alert tonight.
The Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said Tropical Depression “Queenie” is expected to pass Cagayan de Oro and the province of Misamis Oriental between 10 p.m. and midnight Wednesday.
Sabugaa said 24 of the city’s 80 barangay are covered by the preemptive evacuation order.
He said they also ordered all registered disaster rescue teams to report to the operation center at City Hall with their rubber boats tonight.
The CDRRMC of Malaybalay City, meanwhile, has alerted its counterparts in the 46 barangays – including the five member rescue volunteers in each barangay – before noon today to prepare for Queenie.
Alan Comiso, CDRRMC operation chief, said the tropical depression will test the capacity of the newly trained village level rescuers.
The CDRRMC has trained 210 of the 230 volunteers from the barangays in a series of training sessions – dubbed the Community-based Emergency Disaster Assistance and Response Training (CEDAR) – completed only last Oct. 26. Comiso said in an earlier interview the village-level rescue volunteers will serve as first responders and may also respond to rescue calls in other villages.
The volunteers were trained on water safety and basic rescue response in flood and landslide-prone areas.
Comiso the alert has been circulated in all barangays, including the 19 villages considered as flood-prone areas.
In 2012, the CDRRMO trained volunteers to a rescue auxiliary team in eight barangays in Upper Pulangi, a remote area near Bukidnon’s boundary with Agusan del Sur.
Comiso said then that the response center in Upper Pulangi will be located in Barangay Mapolo.
He said that before the training, it took rescuers from downtown at least two hours to respond to distress calls from the Upper Pulangi area.
The CDRRMO said the volunteers came from the Upper Pulangi Riders Association (UPRA), who went through the basics of rescue training, including water and mountain rescue operations.
But Comiso admitted that the rescuers still lack equipment like radio sets, helmets, spine boards, robes and others.
Comiso said they have issued an alert to all of the city’s barangay captains via SMS, informing them of the storm signal and to take precautionary measures. (Froilan Gallardo and Walter Balane / MindaNews)