‘Let’s anticipate the worst possible scenario’ – Siargao mayor on ‘Odette’

GENERAL LUNA, Siargao Island (MindaNews / 14 Dec) ­– Local government and disaster management officials here have been rushing efforts to mitigate the effects of Typhoon “Odette” that is expected to pass close to the island sometime on Thursday.

Residents trim tree branches at Cloud Nine in General Luna town in Siargao Island on Monday (13 December 2021) in anticipation of the wrath of typhoon “Odette.” MindaNews photo by ROEL N. CATOTO

General Luna Mayor Cecilia Rusillon called a meeting with her constituents on Monday and instructed officials of the 19 villages to prepare.

“Let’s anticipate the worst possible scenario. We’ve been battered by strong typhoons in the pasts and let’s do all we can to prepare for this calamity,” the mayor said.

In neighboring Dapa town, the Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council also ordered villages to prepare evacuation centers.

“We are monitoring this tropical cyclone and we have been telling residents as early as last week about preemptive measures and safety,” said Dapa town councilor Gerry Abejo in an interview.

He said some evacuation centers in the town are now being prepared.

Abejo said they have already done preparations at the Dapa Central Elementary School, Catabaan Elementary School, San Nicolas School, and the multi-purpose building of the Siargao Island Electric Cooperative, among others.

He said heavy equipment of the Department of Public Works and Highways are on standby for emergency use.

“We are doing rekurida (vehicle with sound system) to remind people of their safety, especially in disaster prone areas,” Abejo said.

Local rescue teams, along with Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) personnel , are on standby as well.

Boats with 250 gross tonnage capacity and below have been prohibited to sail starting Tuesday morning, according to John Alfwell Saarenas, acting station commander of PCG- Surigao del Norte.

Kristoffer Abellanosa, regional affairs officer for Northeastern Mindanao area of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines, said they are pre-positioning their crew and equipment should the need arise.

Vehicles from various parts of Siargao Island, but mostly owned by resort owners in the municipality of General Luna, are being parked at the Siargao Sports Complex in Dapa town on Tuesday (14 December 2021) for safety with the expected onslaught of Typhoon “Odette.” MindaNews photo by ROEL N. CATOTO

Vehicles from various parts of Siargao Island, but mostly owned by resort owners in the municipality of General Luna, were being parked at the Siargao Sports Complex in Dapa town starting Tuesday evening for their safety.

Several tourists have started fleeing since late last week, but others opted to stay, or trapped as the boats were banned to go to sea.

“We are stranded in paradise now. There’s no boat plying anymore,” said Ronnie Caparenas of Davao City.

“We wish there’s a C-130 from Siargao going to Surigao,” he said.

Residents have been bracing for the impact of the incoming typhoon.

Clifford Gonzales, operation manager of Hook Pro Siargao, a sports fishing company, said they are securing their boats at the vast mangrove forest in Pilar town.

Other resorts are reinforcing glass windows and doors with plywood.

Some beach front resorts are fortifying their properties by placing sandbags.

The sound of chainsaws cutting tree branches can be heard in the villages in the residents’ attempt to prevent trees from falling from the expected strong winds.

Survivors of super typhoon “Nitang” (international name: “Ike”) that pummeled Surigao in August 1984 recalled horrifying moments.

“We thought we were going to die,” said Emilito Espejon, 58, a tricycle driver who sought shelter in Barangay Esperanza in Del Carmen town during the onslaught of Nitang.

“Nitang was the most powerful typhoon ever that hit the island. It flattened the area, there was a swath of debris, almost all coconut and other trees fell down,” he said in the vernacular. (Roel N. Catoto / MindaNews)