CATARMAN, Philippines (UPDATED) – “Northern Samar is ready for Ruby,” said the province’s vice-governor Gary Lavin on Saturday, December 6, hours before the predicted landfall of the typhoon (international name Hagupit).
Public Storm Signal No 3 has been raised over Northern Samar after state weather bureau PAGASA predicted it to be one of the provinces in Ruby’s path.
On Saturday morning, enormous waves were already observed in its northernmost coastlines while very strong winds bent tall trees.
A report posted on Rappler’s Project Agos Alert Map on Saturday evening said that 2-meter deep waters reached the edge of the runway of the Catarman National Airport, as relayed by a ham (amateur) radio operator in Catarman.
Power interruption and weaker cellular phone signals have also been reported.
As of Saturday morning, 18,578 families were already in evacuation centers following a memorandum circular issued by the provincial government on Thursday, December 4, calling for mandatory preemptive evacuation in all 24 municipalities.
“Our priority are the eastern villages or those facing the Pacific Ocean,” Lavin told Rappler. He named 5 municipalities they expect will be the worst hit: Lapinig, Gamay, Panas, Palapag and Laoang.
Villages near rivers which feed into the sea and are prone to flooding are also concerned critical areas, he added.
Brigade Commander Col Germenegildo Aquino, in charge of Northern Samar, said they are also preparing for storm surges in the entire Northern Samar coastline.
Given PAGASA’s latest update that the storm is likely to make landfall in Dolores in Eastern Samar at 2 am Sunday, Lavin said they expect landfall in Northern Samar two hours after, around 4 am on Sunday.
While they were the least affected province during Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), Northern Samar was where the first storm of 2014 hit land.
Typhoon Glenda (Rammasun) was strong enough to bring down 569 electricity poles last July with winds of up to 250 kilometers per hour, said Aquino.
Images of Yolanda and their experience of Glenda have helped convince families to evacuate voluntarily but Aquino admits there are still a few who refuse to leave their homes.
At least 290 kilograms of rice, 170 boxes of noodles, and 190 boxes of sardines have been distributed to evacuation centers as of Saturday afternoon.
Four different groups – Red Cross, Kabalikat, the military’s disaster response unit, and the Northern Samar Reserviced Battalion – a total of around 300 persons – will be deployed for rescue operations during and after landfall, said Aquino.
They’ve also set up a communication system to ensure coordination.
“There are two radio groups prepositioned in all the towns. They can communicate by cellphone, VHF radio, the military radio system, AM/FM radio stations or by courier system,” said Aquino.
They also have two mobile military radio broadcast systems with a 22-kilometer range. Aquino said they requested for a satellite phone from the Office of Civil Defense in Tacloban but the phone has not yet been given to them.
Dr Rommel Francisco of the Department of Health Northern Samar said on Friday that they are ready to conduct a Rapid Health Assessment 24 hours after Ruby’s onslaught. They have also formed a team to respond to any health concerns in evacuation centers.
One van stocked with assorted medicines and supplies is ready for deployment, he added.
Province-wide disaster response will be coordinated in a single command center in Catarman, the province’s most populated town. But localized command centers have also been activated down to the municipal and barangay level, said Lavin. – Rappler.com
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