12,000 families evacuated as Legazpi City braces for Ruby
LEGAZPI CITY, Philippines – The wind howls in the dark Sunday morning, December 7, as Mary Jane Atsagi sits idly outside a congested classroom.
The 54-year-old from Barangay San Roque is with her 2 grandchildren. They’ve been in Gogon Elementary School – where at least 1,000 families had been placed in preparation for Super Typhoon Ruby (Hagupit) – since Saturday afternoon, December 6.
“The local government said we should move out so we did. We want our children to be safe,” she said.
Her husband and sons, she said, decided to stay and guard their homes. But they’ll evacuate once the conditions become worse.
“In times like these, some criminals might roam around and steal our property. Those who are strong enough in our family stayed behind. I told them to leave if ever the tides rise,” Mary Jane added.
The entire city – along with the entire province of Albay, and neighboring provinces of Masbate and Sorsogon – had no electricity since Saturday night. Hotels run with generators but evacuation centers rely only on candles to light their night.
Each classroom houses 22 to 30 families. Some, like Mary Jane, have to stay awake given the small space.
“We’re really afraid because they said the typhoon was really strong. During Typhoon Glenda (Rammasun), the waters reached the classrooms. We had to stand up and go to the 2nd floor,” she said.
Mary Jane added: “So far, we’re okay here. They gave us supplies that we can cook since a lot of our resources were left at home.”
Mary Jane and her grandchildren is one of the 12,000 families from 19 coastal and low-lying villages evacuated by Legazpi City in anticipation of Typhoon Ruby.
According to Pecos Intia, Legazpi city administrator, after state weather bureau PAGASA raised alert warnings, the city immediately convened its City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (CDRRMC) and ordered community leaders to evacuate their residents.
“We made an inventory of all our resources and made sure our equipment were in check. We coordinated with national government offices in case we needed help,” he added.
He added: “Some of our residents, especially those near rivers and coastal areas, already have the initiative to evacuate. They know the hazards they are facing.”
Intia added that while the city has its disaster response equipment and vehicles on standby, rescue operations are not really likely to happen.
“We actually discourage rescue operations. Why? Because we made sure all our residents evacuated and are prepared to face the typhoon. We usually mobilize only for clearing operations after disasters,” Intia said.
As for Mary Jane, she said the biggest challenge is how to rebuild their lives after Ruby.
“We’ll need help, especially if our house is torn down. We live really near the sea. I hope the government will help us build our homes after this typhoon,” she said.
As Ruby rips across the Philippines, the thousands of evacuees like Mary Jane and her grandchildren have no choice but to wait until the typhoon has passed by before they know what damage it has brought them.
“We’re really praying that it won’t be as bad as past typhoons. We don’t want to rebuild from scratch,” she concluded. – Rappler.com