TUGUEGARAO CITY, Philippines – Typhoon Ompong (Mangkhut) blasted its way through Cagayan and Isabela early hours Saturday, September 15, sweeping away roofs, uprooting trees, and pounding on farmlands.
Residents braved the winds to clear debris from their homes and neighborhood at 6 am, after a sleepless night where Ompong howled and battered the province with strong winds of 205 km/h.
It brought back memories of Super Typhoon Lawin in October 2016, residents said.
The typhoon’s eye made landfall at Baggao town in Cagayan province at 1:40 am Saturday and crossed through the Sierra Madre mountain range, bringing devastation to the rest of the northern provinces.
Rain has not been as heavy though, but the province remained without power and cell phone signal has been intermittent.
The airport here was also closed.
In Manila, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III told an interagency briefing that Typhoon Ompong swept away the roof of the Cagayan provincial capitol.
Bello, who was in Ilagan City, Isabela, to monitor the government’s response to Ompong, said he received this information from Cagayan Governor Manuel Mamba early on Saturday.
“Governor Mamba texted me as early as 3 ‘o clock this morning to inform me na ‘yung bubungan ng provincial capitol of Cagayan ay nawala, natanggal (that the roof of the provincial capitol of Cagayan was gone, was removed),” Bello said.
Bello reported receiving a similar report from President Rodrigo Duterte’s political affairs adviser, Francis Tolentino, who was also deployed for Ompong response efforts.
“Secretary Francis Tolentino called me early this morning to inform me that he has to transfer his place of resting because ‘yung tinulugan niya, nawala ang bubong, nawala pa ang bintana (the roof and the window was removed from the place where he slept), so he had to rush out,” Bello added.
Bello said he has not received reports of casualties in Isabela. But there has been damage to corn, rice, and vegetable plantations there.
More than 126,700 Filipinos have been affected by Ompong so far.
The Mormon Church, among other groups, is sheltering typhoon victims in the areas affected by Ompong.
As of 8 am on Saturday, Ompong has slightly weakened and is now heading toward Ilocos Norte, which remains at risk of storm surges up to 6 meters high. Ilocos Sur, La Union, and Pangasinan could see storm surges of up to 2 meters. – with reports from Paterno Esmaquel II/Rappler.com
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