Ruby flattens Bicol houses, causes storm surge

Rhadyz B. Barcia
Storm surges and flood from Typhoon Ruby (Hagupit) destroys houses made of light materials in the Bicol Region

RUBY’S IMPACT. Filipino residents run from strong waves brought by Typhoon Ruby (Hagupit) at a coastal village in Legazpi city, Albay province on Sunday, December 7. Photo by Zalrian Z. Sayat/EPA

LEGAZPI CITY, Philippines – Typhoon Ruby (Hagupit) flattened houses in the Bicol Region while boulders as big as cars tumbled down in low-lying areas of Albay province.

Storm surges as high as 10 to 15 feet slammed into Masbate, Sorsogon and Albay, gulping down houses in the coastal areas.

Bernardo “Raffy” Alejandro, Office of Civil Defense regional director, said that his office received a report regarding the storm surge in the island province of Masbate even before Typhoon Ruby’s landfall there on Sunday morning.

The Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council convened disaster officials and responders on Sunday morning, and identified Masbate as the worst-hit area in the region.

Alejandro directed military officers in Bicol to preposition all available assets and manpower to assists the hardly hit areas as soon as the typhoon passes. 

In Albay province, specifically in the coastal areas of Sabang, Pigcale, Baybay and San Roque in Legazpi City, many houses built with light materials were either washed into the seas or half-buried by sand due to the storm surge even before Ruby hit land. 

Storm surges hit Albay, Sorsogon and Masbate even before Ruby’s landfall due to strong winds from the northeast monsoon.

Albay is about 70 kilometers from Masbate.

Volcanic materials, too

Col. Perfecto Penaredondo, commander of the Army’s 2nd Infantry Battalion, said that big boulders and other volcanic materials hit Maipon village, Guinobatan town.

In 2006, Maipon village was buried by big volumes of volcanic materials from the slopes of the Mayon volcano, killing some 500 people during the height of Super Typhoon Reming (Durian).  

Ed Laguerta, Phivolcs resident volcanologist chief in Bicol, warned that “remobilization of lahar” from Mounts Bulusan in Sorsogon, and Mayon in Albay might occur due to torrential rain.  

With the lahar flow advisory, Albay Governor Joey Salceda ordered the evacuation of more residents.

“I authorized Albay Public Safety Emergency Management Office to implement the order to evacuate all vulnerable population with a target of 123,217 families including 19,000 at risk to storm surge, 29,000 to lahar from upper slope landslides in Mayon, 40,000 to flooding, 40,000 to wind for houses made of light materials and 14,600 to landslides,” the governor said. 

Salceda is confident that the province will achieve its zero casualty goal through pre-emptive evacuation and “family preparedness.”

“Don’t venture out, Ruby still has her fangs. For as long as we stay put at home (unevaluated) and stay in [the] evacuation centre, [we will be safe],” he said.

Salceda said that he is worried about the impact of the strong wind on the economy and homes made of light materials.

“The Albayano spirit of resilience has proven to overcome any storm in our life as a people. We adapt not to survive but to succeed,” said Salceda, who is recognized globally for heading disaster risk reduction and disaster response efforts in his province.

Most complex disaster

According to Salceda, Typhoon Ruby is turning out to be the most complex disaster the province confronted since Reming as it might cause Mayon volcano’s phreatic explosion due to heavy rainfall. (READ: Bicol volcanoes make Ruby a ‘complex disaster’)

Aurelio A. Rabusa Jr, Naval Forces Southern Luzon commander, said that all his group’s assets – land, air and sea – are on standby to respond to Ruby-ravaged areas.

“Our men and all available assets are ready to lend a hand in Masbate and Easter Samar tomorrow (Monday) as soon as the weather permits us to go,” Rabusa said in a briefing here. – 

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