Urduja strands thousands in Bicol, Eastern Visayas, Western Visayas

Lou Gepuela
Nearly 7,000 passengers are stranded in areas affected by Tropical Storm Urduja

LINE. Vehicles lined up outside the port in Matnog, Sorsogon stretch up to 5 kilometers. Photo by Winston Regarde

MANILA, Philippines – About 7,000 passengers were stranded at various ports in Bicol, Eastern Visayas, Western Visayas, and the National Capital Region (NCR) due to Tropical Storm Urduja (Kai-tak).

As of Saturday morning, December 16, at least 6,910 passengers were stranded, according to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) earlier announced that the Eastern Visayas District of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) issued a “No Sail Policy” in view of the tropical storm. Authorities have directed all Coast Guard Stations to strictly implement PCG memorandum circulars 02-13 (Guidelines on Movement of Vessels during Heavy Weather) and 03-02 (Guidelines on Vessels/Motorboats in the absence of Weather Bulletin in the Locality).

Under HPCG MC 02-13, “No vessel of any type or tonnage shall be allowed to sail except to take shelter, as the situation may warrant, when Public Storm Warning Signal (PSWS) Number 1 or higher is hoisted within its point of origin, the intended route, and point of destination. All vessels that are already underway shall seek shelter when any PSWS is hoisted in its immediate vicinity, along its route, and point of destination.”

STRANDED. Passengers await the reopening of Matnog Port in Sorsogon. Photo by Winston Regarde

Help for tranded passengers in Matnog needed

According to Winston Regarde, a Bike Scouts Philippines member and Agos volunteer who is currently stranded in Matnog port in Sorsogon, the last trip from Matnog port was on December 13.

Matnog port is a major transit point connecting Luzon and the Visayas. 

A responder from the Matnog Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (MDRRMO) said that all buses bound for Matnog were advised not to proceed. Other vehicles were held in other towns so as not to congest the major highways leading to Sorsogon.

The line of vehicles trying to cross Matnog Port to Samar has already reached 5 kilometers.

HOLIDAY CHEER. Matnog municipality responders prepare lechon for distribution to stranded passengers. Photo by Winston Regarde

Some passengers took shelter at the municipal gym, while others opted to remain inside their respective buses, according to Regarde.

Local authorities said that they need more food, water, temporary shelter, and health professionals to assist stranded passengers. 

Stranded passengers also need cellphone load and charging stations, Regarde said. These requests have already been relayed to the NDRRMC National Response Cluster, which has been activated on Friday afternoon.

RESPITE. The Matnog municipal gym serves as a temporary shelter for exhausted passengers. Photo by Winston Regarde

State weather bureau Pagasa on Saturday, December 16, said that Tropical Storm Urduja has slightly intensified as it moves closer toward Samar Island. As of 4 am Saturday, the center of Urduja was estimated at 180 km east northeast of Borongan City, Eastern Samar. 

Urduja is expected to make landfall over the Northern Samar-Eastern Samar area on Saturday. –