Provinces, agencies on alert for Yolanda
(UPDATED) Local governments, particularly those in Yolanda's path, are now deploying personnel and equipment

CREEPING NEARER. An MTSAT ENHANCED-IR Satellite Image 9:30 a.m., 06 November 2013, showing Typhoon Haiyan in the lower right corner. Image courtesy PAGASA

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Local government units in the Visayas, northern Mindanao and southern Luzon are now preparing for the possible onslaught of typhoon Haiyan before the week ends.

Typhoon Haiyan is currently gaining strength as it moves closer to the Philippines, and is forecast to become a very strong system once it hits the country Friday, November 8. 

As of 10:30 am, PAGASA said Haiyan was located 1,411 kilometers east of Mindanao, with maximum sustained winds of 150 kilometers per hour near the center, and gusts of up to 185 km/h.

It is forecast to move west northwest at a speed of 30 km/h.

Meteorological site Weather Philippines, in its latest update, said the typhoon is “similar in track and strength of Super Typhoon Mike (Ruping) which passed across the Visayas in November of 1991 and devastated much of Metro Cebu.”

Forecast tracks show the typhoon making its first landfall in the Samar-Letye area, and will traverse the Visayas. Its effects can be felt in the Visayas, northern parts of Mindanao, and southern parts of Luzon.

According to Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Sonny Coloma, President Benigno Aquino III has asked Defense Secretary and chief of the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC) Voltaire Gazmin to instruct all provincial and municipal disaster risk reduction and management councils to start moving “so that the people can prepare for and avoid danger.”

“All concerned government agencies are on heightened alert to ensure swift response to affected residents, especially those in low-lying and flood prone areas,” he said.

Coloma said recuse boats, emergency relief and medical supplies have been spread out to strategic areas.

He added, “all this is in accordance with the directive of the President to achieve zero casualties in calamities like this.”

Coloma also gave assurances the President would remain “hands-on” in handling the crisis “as he has done before,” and said the “government is ready to deploy the necessary resources in order to counter whatever the effect of the calamity will be.”

One of the first to prepare for Haiyan, which will be named Yolanda once it enters the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR), is Bicol, whose Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (DRRMC) placed the area under alert since Tuesday, November 5.

The Bicol RDRRMC then elevated the alert level to Red early Wednesday, November 6, and advised all six provincial disaster councils in the region to start pre-emptive evacuations Thursday, November 7.

Local officials in Region 7 – whose most recent disaster was the 7.2 magnitude earthquake last October 15 – are also preparing for the typhoon.

In Cebu, classes have been suspended in all levels by Gov Hilario Davide III on Thursday and Friday, while Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama has instructed the city DRRMC to be on standby.

Tacloban City, meanwhile, will conduct pre-emptive evacuations for around 1,000 residents, mostly residing in landslide- or flood-prone areas, Wednesday evening between 7-9 pm.

Fishermen will also be prevented from going out to sea by the city government as a precautionary measure.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) has also started deploying disaster response units, equipment and supplies to areas that will be affected by the typhoon. These include the Special Action Force, Maritime Group, Highway Patrol Group, Police Community Relaitons Group, and the Regional Public Safety Battalions, the Philippine News Agency (PNA) reported.

The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) has directed all local government units to activate their respective disaster risk reduction and management councils as the typhoon approaches.

In particular, the DILG cited LGUs in Bicol, Eastern Visayas, and Mimaropa.

Search and rescue teams

Local executives have been advised to seek help from first-responder units, from agencies such as the Philippine Coast Guard and the Bureau of Fire Protection, in evacuation measures.

Search and Rescue Teams should also be activated in preparation for any incident once the typhoon comes, the DILG added.

Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, in a press release, told local government officials to monitor the weather system closely.

Importanteng ma-monitor ng ating mga local DRRMC ang galaw ng bagyong ito bago pa man tumama sa lupa. Walang saysay ang paghahanda kung hihintayin pa natin ang pagtama ng bagyo sa Pilipinas bago tayo kumilos,” he was quoted as saying. (Let’s track this typhoon before it lands so we are better prepared.)

He also told LGUs to start warning residents on the possibility of the typhoon hitting their areas.

Mas mabuti na ang handa kaysa magsisi sa bandang huli. Mahalaga ang bawat oras para magligtas ng buhay,” he was quoted as saying. (It’s always better to be prepared. Every hour is crucial in preventing the loss of lives.)– KD Suarez/