Communications down, Mar can’t be reached

Communication has shown to be a huge challenge for disaster management officials. The NDRMMC is counting on satellite phones military radio.

Image courtesy US NOAA

MANILA, Philippines — By early afternoon Friday, November 8, National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council executive director Eduardo Del Rosario gave instructions to bring a satellite phone to where Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas II and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin were in Tacloban City.

The two Cabinet officials have been off the grid since early Friday morning, around the time storm surges submerged downtown Tacloban. They arrived in the city Thursday, November 7, to supervise government response there.

“We hope to establish yung contact sa kanila the soonest posible time. But the roads may not be passable to vehicles because of fallen trees. Baka naglalakad na lang kung hindi pwede because of vehicular problem,” Del Rosario said. (We hope to establish contact with them the soonest possible time. But the roads may not be passable because of fallen trees. They might be walking if it’s not possible because of a vehicular problem.)

Communication has proven to be a huge challenge for disaster management officials. The NDRMMC is counting on satellite phones and military radio. There is contact with Catbalogan City in Samar at the headquarters of the 8th Infantry Division, said Del Rosario.

“We are blind especially in Region 8. In other areas, it’s not so much. We are still getting some reports. But not in region 8,” said Del Rosario. Region 8 covers the provinces placed under typhoon signal number 4, including Leyte and Samar. 

“Eastern Samar is badly hit. But we do not know the extent of damage. As of now, we haven’t received reports on casualties, deaths or injuries. I hope it will stay that way,” Del Rosario said. 

The NDRRMC did not report casualties on Friday. The 3 fatalities were reported on Thursday — 2 were electrocuted and one was struck by lighting.

Del Rosario is confident the provinces were prepared to mitigate the impact of the typhoon. “We have our own responders in every barangay, municipality, provinces, and cities. Even before we lost communication with them, they’ve assured us that they’ve conducted preemptive evacuation,” said Del Rosario.

The military’s C-130 cargo plane is scheduled to fly to Tacloban Saturday morning to bring in, among others, personnel who will fix communication lines there. 

“In 24 hours we hope magkakaroon tayo ng line of communication,” Del Rosario said. (In 24 hours, we hope to have the a line of communication.)

Like being on a fast motorcycle

Dubbed as a “super typhoon,” Yolanda is considered as the strongest storm this year. (READ: Most powerful 2013 storm hits PH)

It was PAGASA’s doppler radar in Guiuan town of Eastern Samar has been monitoring Yolanda’s movement and sending radar data and photos. But when Yolanda made its first of at least 5 landfalls there at 4:40 am, the doppler radar went off grid. VSAT transmission was probably cut, said PAGASA’s Esperanza Cayanan. 

Fortunately, PAGASA has doppler radars in Cebu, which was close enough to get radar data and photos. As the typhoon moved towards Mindoro, it was the doppler radar in Tagaytay that gathered data. 

Yolanda made its 2nd landfall in Tolosa, Leyte around 7 am. 

“It felt like driving a motorcycle at the speed of 250 kilometers per hour. Without a helmet!” 

That was how Tacloban City Mayor Alfred Romualdez, a motorcycle enthusiast, described it to his cousin Leyte Representative Ferdinand Martin Romualdez early morning on Friday, November 8, before Leyte lost communication lines. 

Representative Romualdez said he lost all contact to Leyte around 8 am, the time storm surges submerged downtown Tacloban. The storm surges reportedly reached as high as 15 feet. 

Unable to get a flight to Leyte, he was stranded in Manila and had to depend on mobile communication to get updates on the ground and give instructions to local officials. Communications were still down as of early evening Friday. 

In Dinagat, an island province below Leyte and Samar, Representative Arlene “Kaka” Bag-ao said the winds were so strong it felt ike “we’re inside a washing machine.” 

It is both, according to PAGASA officer-in-charge Vicente Malano. — Rappler.com