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Archive for November 23rd, 2007

‘Mina’ changes course

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
Last updated 09:27am (Mla time) 11/24/2007

MANILA, Philippines — Typhoon “Mina” (international codename: Mitag) has changed direction and will hit the northeastern provinces of Aurora and Isabela instead of the Bicol region, the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Service Administration (PAGASA) said Saturday.

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At 4 a.m., “Mina” was spotted 200 kilometers east northeast of Virac town in the southeastern province of Catanduanes in Bicol, and 460 kilometers southeast of Casiguran town in the northeastern province of Aurora, the PAGASA said in a 5 a.m. bulletin.

The storm maintained its strength, with maximum sustained winds of 175 kilometers per hour near the center and gusts of up to 210 kilometers per hour, the PAGASA weather bureau said.

“Typhoon ‘Mina’ has changed course and is now moving northwest toward Aurora-Isabela area,” the bureau said.

Moving northwest at 11 kilometers per hour, the typhoon is forecast to be 120 kilometers north of Virac and 230 kilometers southeast of Casiguran by Sunday morning, it said.

Monday morning, it is expected to be at 40 kilometers west of Casiguran and Tuesday morning 130 kilometers southwest of Laoag City in the northeastern province of Ilocos Norte, it added.

Public Storm Signal No. 3 (winds of 100 to 185 kilometers per hour) has been raised in the Bicol region’s Catanduanes and Camarines Norte provinces and on Polilio Island off the eastern province of Quezon.

Signal No. 2 (winds of 60-100 kilometers per hour) has been raised in the provinces of Camarines Sur, Sorsogon, Albay, Burias Island, Quezon, Quirino, Aurora, Isabela, and Northern Samar.

Signal No. 1 (winds of 30 to 60 kilometers per hour) has been raised in the provinces of Masbate, Romblon, Marinduque, Oriental Mindoro, south of Manila; the provinces of Batangas, Laguna, Rizal and Bulacan, around Manila; the northern provinces of Nueva Viscaya, Ifugao, Kalinga, Mountain Province, Cagayan; and Western Samar, Eastern Samar, Biliran Island, and the northern part of Leyte Island in the central Philippines.

Originally posted 5:39pm, November 23, 2007

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Written by joelguinto

Fri+00:002007-11-23T15:56:10+00:00+00:0011b+00:00Fri, 23 Nov 2007 15:56:10 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm11

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President checks Bicol execs on Mina preparations

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Phone calls provide comic relief to NDCC meet

By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
Last updated 07:08pm (Mla time) 11/23/2007

MANILA, Philippines — President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo called up local government executives in the Bicol Region to check on their preparations for typhoon “Mina” (international codename: Mitag), which is expected to make landfall Saturday.

The phone conversations brought comic relief to the otherwise serious meeting of the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) in Camp Aguinaldo.

Two officials who were placed on speakerphone did not immediately recognize who was on the other end of the line, so the President greeted them, saying: “This is Gloria Arroyo.”

In her conversation with Sorsogon Governor Sally Lee, Arroyo checked on the status of the restive Bulusan volcano.

Lee replied: “Ayun Ma’am, hindi po gumalagaw [It’s there Ma’am, it’s not moving].”

This drew laughter from those attending the meeting, who included Cabinet secretaries and undersecretaries and military and coast guard officials.

Camarines Sur Governor Luis Raymundo Villafuerte did not immediately answer his phone. Instead it played his “ringback” tune, his province’s jingle, sung by pop singer Karylle.

Again, the meeting participants burst into laughter.

The state weather bureau said “Mina,” which packs maximum sustained winds of 175 kilometers per hour and gusts of up to 210 kilometers per hour near the center, has slowed down and make landfall in Catanduanes province on Saturday afternoon, instead of the morning as originally forecast.

The storm is “stationary” moving west at seven kilometers per hour, but remains on track to hit the Bicol Region, said Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) chief Prisco Nilo.

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Written by joelguinto

Fri+00:002007-11-23T11:35:44+00:00+00:0011b+00:00Fri, 23 Nov 2007 11:35:44 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am11

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‘Good luck,’ Arroyo tells disaster execs

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Close to 30,000 families evacuated

By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net, Agence France Presse
Last updated 08:21pm (Mla time) 11/23/2007

MANILA, Philippines — President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo checked on preparations by national and local government officials and wished them good luck as they braced for the landfall of typhoon “Mina” (international codename: Mitag) in the Bicol Region on Saturday.

“Good luck and do all your work,” Arroyo told member-agencies of the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC), during a meeting in Camp Aguinaldo early Friday evening.

Packing maximum sustained winds of 175 kilometers per hour, with gusts of up to 210 kilometers per hour, “Mina” is feared to strengthen into a super typhoon before hitting Catanduanes province on Saturday evening, chief state weather forecaster Prisco Nilo said.

The storm was “stationary” inching westwards at seven kilometers per hour, but was on track to slam into the Bicol peninsula, Nilo said.

Evacuation in the Bicol Region was expected to finish at 5 p.m., and initial data showed that 29,014 families or 134,140 people had been brought to safety, said the regional director of the Office of Civil Defense, Bernardo Alejandro.

Alejandro corrected his earlier statement that over 190,000 people have so far been evacuated in Bicol.

Arroyo expressed concern the storm’s strong winds could topple power lines in the region, a repeat of the scenario in late 2006 when three super typhoons hit.

“This is three times stronger than ‘Lando,’ maybe we need different types of power lines in those areas,” Arroyo said.

She was referring to the tropical storm that immediately preceded ‘Mina,’ which swept through the Visayas and left 14 people dead, according to NDCC figures.

Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes said towers of the National Transmission Corp. (Transco) are built to withstand super typhoon winds of up to 215 kilometers per hour, but are weakened due to pilferage.

Reyes said the energy department is coordinating with the police and the military to guard the towers.

A Transco representative told the President their personnel has been placed on “double duty status” and that linemen from the Visayas and Mindanao are on standby to augment Luzon personnel if necessary or when power restoration efforts are underway.

The military has placed on standby 40 M35 trucks, four UH-1H helicopters, five Navy ships, 3 motor boats, five rubber boats, and three power saws, Armed Forces vice chief of staff Lieutenant General Antonio Romero said.

Romero said all six of the military’s unified commands are ready in case their help is needed in rescue and relief efforts.

Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) chairman Bayani Fernando said his agency has prepared 2,300 personnel and 200 vehicles and heavy equipment. He said all flood pumps were operational.

“We’re ready for action, Ma’am,” Fernando told the President.

Soldiers have also been readied for deployment to the different areas in Metro Manila for possible disaster response, said Major General Fernando Mesa, chief of the Armed Forces National Capital Region Command (NCRCom).

When pressed by the president, Public Works Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane Jr. said certain highways in Bicol Region could be closed to prevent accidents when the storm hits.

Ebdane said heavy equipment for possible road clearing operations were also placed on standby.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque said his department has been placed on a code white alert, meaning hospitals should have teams working round the clock.

In Albay, where typhoons last year triggered mudslides from the slopes of Mayon Volcano that killed hundreds of people, the provincial government declared a state of calamity Friday noon.

The Albay government said 45,923 persons or 9,437 families had been evacuated as of Thursday, most of them residents of areas prone to dangerous flows of lahar, or volcanic material. Governor Joey Salceda said 62 percent of the 53,000 people living in lahar-prone areas had already been evacuated.

Alejandro said the target number of evacuees was not fixed, but in Albay alone, over 200,000 are expected to be evacuated amid threats of flashfloods and landslides.

“The rain path [of the typhoon] is so huge it affects three-fourths of the country so even if you are not hit by the typhoon, you are going to experience heavy rains,” said deputy civil defence chief Anthony Golez.

The Bicol region, known as “typhoon alley,” bore the brunt of Super Typhoon “Reming” (international codename: Durian) last year which killed 1,200 people and left 200,000 homeless.

Entire villages were obliterated and hundreds were swept to their deaths in mudslides triggered by “Reming,” which blew away houses and uprooted trees as it slammed into Albay and Bicol provinces.

Arroyo, who cut short her trip to Singapore for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit to deal with the typhoon, has told officials she did not want a repeat of last year’s disaster and ordered pre-emptive evacuations.

Flatbed lorries, police-chartered vans, and even rubbish trucks were pressed in to service as thousands of men, women and children were moved from vulnerable areas ahead of “Mina’s” expected onslaught.

Salceda ordered all private establishments and public offices, except for banks and government agencies involved in disaster response, closed by noon Friday. He also warned that a power interruption is expected Friday night when strong gusts start to hit the province.

Some areas of the province lost telephone services Thursday night.

Salceda said the Army and police were prepared to forcibly move those who did not want to go.

Officials are on alert for mud and ash flows that may come cascading down the slopes of Mayon Volcano, as well as storm, he added.

Cedric Daep, disaster coordinating chief of Albay, said they had enough food for the evacuated people to last for two days.

However he warned that “we will be running out of space in evacuation centers,” since some of these shelters had not been fully repaired after being hit by previous typhoons.

On the outskirts of Legazpi City, people could be seen trudging along roads, carrying their clothes and other personal belongings as they sought refuge in safer areas.

At Daraga town, near Legazpi, a motley assortment of vehicles trundled out of the area loaded with residents clutching their belongings.

Families sat on the back of the trucks clutching bags of clothes, mats and blankets as they headed for schools being used as evacuation centers.

“It is the people themselves who are asking to be taken out,” said local police chief, Superintendent Tony Freyra.

Ephraim Aguilar and Jaymee Gamil, Inquirer Southern Luzon; Originally posted at 11:36am

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Written by joelguinto

Fri+00:002007-11-23T05:25:24+00:00+00:0011b+00:00Fri, 23 Nov 2007 05:25:24 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am11

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‘Mina’ nears super typhoon strength–PAGASA

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Winds at 175 kph, gusts at 210 kph

By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
Last updated 01:03pm (Mla time) 11/23/2007

MANILA, Philippines — Typhoon “Mina” (International codename: Mitag) neared super typhoon strength, on the eve of its landfall in Catanduanes province, the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said.

At 10 a.m., “Mina” was located 220 kilometers east of Virac town in Catanduanes province. The storm packs maximum sustained winds of 175 kilometers per our and gusts of up to 210 kilometers per hour, PAGASA said in a bulletin.

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The National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) said 50,387 people have been evacuated in Albay and three other provinces in the Bicol Region as of Thursday evening.

PAGASA Director Prisco Nilo said in a phone interview that a storm’s maximum sustained winds would need to reach 215 kilometers per hour before it could be classified a super typhoon.

“The likely scenario is that it will hit Bicol and will exit the country via Mindoro,” Nilo said.

According to the PAGASA bulletin, the storm will be in the vicinity of Catanduanes by Saturday morning, off the Oriental Mindoro coast by Sunday morning, and 230 kilometers west of San Jose town, Oriental Mindoro by Monday morning.

Public Storm Signal number 3 has been raised in the provinces of Catanduanes, Sorsogon, Albay, Burias Island, and the Camarines provinces, while signal number 2 was raised in southern Quezon, Polilio Island, and the provinces of Marinduque, Romblon, and Masbate.

Signal number 1 was raised in the Mindoro provinces, the rest of Quezon, Batangas, Laguna, Rizal, Aurora, Isabela, Quirino, and the Calamian Group of Islands.

Bulk of the over 50,000 evacuees, 45,487, were in Albay, of which, 11,518 were in Daraga town, 7,394 in Ligao, 6,311 in Camalig, 5,862 in Legazpi City, 5,127 in Guinobatan, 3,108 in Pio Duran, 2,795 in
Jovellar, 1,009 in Polangui, 793 in Sto. Domingo, 614 in Bacacay, 375 in Tabaco, 198 in Malilipot, 185 in Malinao, 106 in Rapu-Rapu, and 17 in Tiwi.

In Catanduanes province, where the storm is expected to make landfall on Saturday morning, 1,500 were evacuated in the capital of Virac.

In Camarines Sur province, there were 2,275 evacuees: 1,500 in Caramoan town, 500 in Magarao, and 275 in Buhi.

In Sorsogon province, 1,125 people were evacuated in Irosin town, the NDCC said, citing figures as of 11 p.m. Thursday.

“The storm will make landfall early morning tomorrow [Saturday], but as early as this afternoon, the storm will be felt in Catanduanes and Northern Samar,” PAGASA weather branch chief Nathaniel Cruz told dzMM radio.

Asked if “Mina” would intensify into a super typhoon, Cruz said: “That’s possible, as we speak, it continues to strengthen.”

While the eye of the storm would pass by Southern Luzon, Cruz said the storm’s winds would be felt in Metro Manila.

Public Storm Signal number 2 could be raised in the capital, with winds expected from 60 to 100 kilometers per hour, he said.

“But even if this does not develop into a super typhoon, with winds this strong, the public should be careful,” he said.

Metro Manila was last hit by a super typhoon in late 2006, when “Milenyo” (international codename: Xangsane) downed power lines, communication lines and billboards along major roads.

Originally posted at 12:32pm

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Written by joelguinto

Fri+00:002007-11-23T05:21:02+00:00+00:0011b+00:00Fri, 23 Nov 2007 05:21:02 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am11

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