Signal No. 1 raised over North, Central Cebu; sea trips canceled

AFTER the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) raised Tropical Cyclone Wind Signal No. 1 in Eastern and Central Visayas, the Coast Guard District reported that 2,610 passengers were stranded after sea travel in affected areas was suspended.

Tropical storm Ursula (international name: Phanfone), which entered the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR) at 5 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 23, 2019, is expected to bring rains in the southern portion of the country.

At 11 a.m., the weather bureau raised public storm warning Signal No. 1 in northern Cebu, including the towns of Carmen, Asturias, Tuburan, Catmon, Sogod, Borbon, Tabuelan, Tabogon, San Remigio, Medellin, Daanbantayan, Bantayan Islands, Camotes Islands and Bogo City, and in central Cebu, including the towns of Balamban, Compostela, Consolacion, Cordova, Liloan and the cities of Cebu, Danao, Lapu-Lapu, Mandaue and Talisay.

Signal No. 1 was also raised in Sorsogon; Masbate, including Ticao Island; Eastern Samar; Northern Samar; Samar; Biliran; Leyte; Southern Leyte; northeastern Bohol, including the towns of Inabanga, Danao, Dagohoy, Pilar, Guindulman, Anda, Candijay, Alicia, Buenavista, Jetafe, Talibon, Trinidad, Bien Unido, San Miguel, Ubay, Mabini, Pres. Carlos P. Garcia; Dinagat Island; and Surigao del Norte, including Siargao.

According to Lt. Junior Grade Michael John Encina, Coast Guard District Central Visayas spokesman, they canceled all sea travel in affected areas after Pagasa raised the signal warnings, stranding passengers who wanted to go home for the holidays.

The 116 rolling cargoes, 47 passenger vessels and 51 motorbancas will be allowed to sail as soon as Pagasa lifts the public storm warning.

At least 10 Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific flights to and from Cebu on Tuesday, Dec. 24 have also been canceled.

Cebu Pacific posted on its Facebook page that the CebGo flight from Cebu to Tacloban and Tacloban to Cebu is canceled.

PAL also canceled two flights from Cebu to Tacloban and two flights from Tacloban to Cebu, as well as its flights from Cebu to Legazpi and Siargao and the Cebu-bound flights from Siargao and Tacloban.

According to the 5 p.m. weather advisory of Pagasa, tropical storm Ursula was 670 kilometers east of Surigao City.

In the same weather bulletin, Guiuan in Eastern Samar was placed under public storm signal no. 2.

Moderate to heavy rains are expected in the southern part of the country on Tuesday, Dec. 24,

Tropical storm Ursula packed minimum sustained winds of 75 kilometers per hour (kph) and gustiness of up to 90 kph, moving 30 kph.

Al Quiblat, Pagasa Visayas officer-in-charge, said there’s a big possibility that Ursula will make landfall in northern Cebu. However, if the tropical storm continues on its track, it will make landfall in Masbate or Biliran. But since it has a radius of 300 kilometers, northern Cebu will still feel its effects.

Winds of 40 to 50 kph will be felt Tuesday morning, increasing to 70 to 80 kph in the afternoon. Rain is also in the forecast in the afternoon until Wednesday morning, Dec. 25.

Fair weather is in the forecast on Thursday, Dec. 26. Tropical storm Ursula is expected to leave the PAR Friday night, Dec. 27, or Saturday morning, Dec. 28.

In Cebu, preparations for the storm’s onslaught are underway, with the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO) requiring all its personnel not to leave their posts so they can easily respond to any emergency situation.

During the meeting convened by the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, Neil Sanchez, PDRRMO head, reminded Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Offices (LDRRMOs) to be on alert and to check barangays that are prone to landslides.

LDRRMOs in Cebu have been ordered to monitor and to immediately evacuate areas that are in danger of flooding or landslides.

“We’d like to advise LDRRMOs that we already raised the alert level to ‘red’ so it’s the same that follows. Already be on 24/7 monitoring, especially at their operations center. Coordinate with the PNP (Philippine National Police), the Coast Guard, the Bureau of Fire Protection since they are part of the response cluster aspect,” said Sanchez in a mix of Cebuano and English.

The Cebu Police Provincial Office (CPPO) is also on alert, especially in the northern part of the province.

Col. Roderick Mariano, chief of the CPPO, said he already ordered the chiefs of police in the towns and cities where public storm Signal No. 1 has been raised to start conducting patrols and to warn residents to be careful.

He said many people will be affected by tropical storm Ursula since it is expected to strike in northern and central Cebu.

“Our MDRRMOs are already on alert, while the Coast Guard has suspended sea travel. We’ve also ordered our police personnel to conduct information dissemination in the barangays, especially those located along the coast,” Mariano said in Tagalog.

He said residents should be told about the incoming storm and advised on what to do when the tropical storm strikes.

He said they’ve been monitoring Pagasa’s weather update so they can direct police units in affected areas to be wary of their surroundings.

Mariano said he ordered them to monitor areas that are prone to flooding and landslides.

Before they respond to emergency situations, he reminded police personnel to secure their families first.

In Cebu City, the City Government announced that it would exempt delivery trucks transporting food, water and fuel from the truck ban starting Monday midnight to ensure that the delivery of basic necessities would not be hampered.

This was one of the City’s preparations after northern and central Cebu were placed under public storm Signal No. 1 due to tropical storm Ursula.

City Councilor Dave Tumulak, disaster risk reduction management committee chairman, urged the public to store goods and not to use private vehicles if they want to go out. Use public transportation instead to avoid causing traffic, he said.

He also requested advertising companies to secure billboards to avoid any accidents.

The City Disaster Risk Reduction Management (CDRRM) team will hold a command center at his office on Tuesday, Dec. 24, so the City can immediately respond to any possible incident, said Mayor Edgardo Labella.

Labella said the City Hall’s front-line services will continue.

CDRRM Council chairman Gerry Carillo said they will check with barangays to determine if preemptive evacuation will be needed, especially in coastal barangays and areas along waterways.

Carillo also reminded the public to stay alert during the calamity. (HBL, ANV, AYB / PJB, JJL with a report from LRC)