NDCC: 14 dead but damage minimal
By Norman Bordadora, Inquirer Southern Luzon, Inquirer Northern Luzon -- Inquirer
AFTER PACKING WINDS of nearly 200 kilometers per hour, Supertyphoon “Paeng” (international code name: Cimaron) considerably weakened yesterday as it crossed two mountain ranges in northern Luzon. But it left at least 14 people dead and a trail of destruction.
Before roaring out to the South China Sea, Paeng blew away houses, uprooted trees, toppled electric posts and caused landslides and flooding.
Disaster officials marvelled at initial reports pointing out the “minimal” damage caused by Paeng compared to the destruction wrought last month by Typhoon “Milenyo” that left 231 dead or missing and tens of thousands homeless.
“The casualty and damage report is minimal,” Defense Secretary Avelino Cruz Jr. reported to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who is in China, in a teleconference from the headquarters of the National Disaster Coordinating Council in Camp Aguinaldo yesterday.
Nathaniel Cruz, weather branch chief of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), said Paeng was quite strong.
“When it crossed the Sierra Madre, it weakened but only just a little bit. When it ran into the Cordillera, that’s when it weakened considerably,” he said.
The supertyphoon slammed into northern Luzon as a maximum category 5 storm --technically the same strength as Hurricane Katrina that devastated New Orleans in 2005.
Cruz said Paeng made landfall over Aurora province at 9 p.m. on Sunday with sustained winds of 195 kph. It weakened to 175 kph by 4 a.m. yesterday.
When it exited Luzon through La Union province at 11 a.m. yesterday, its wind velocity had further weakened to 120 kph and its gusts to 150 kph, according to the weather bureau.
In the upland town of Kasibu in Nueva Vizcaya province, residents woke up Monday to the sight of families in Barangay Poblacion desperately scouring the swollen Magat River for lost livestock, house parts and appliances.
Many of the families, however, were just thankful that they got out of their houses in time before the fast-moving waters of the river eroded the banks and their houses.
Residents traveling to and from the town had to walk through several meters of mud after a portion of the mountain road in Barangay Antutot was cut off due to strong water flow.
In Bagabag town, it was déjà vu for two families who were trapped on river islets along the swollen Magat River, barely a year after they were rescued from the same area.
But there was no available boat for the two families on Monday morning. The only rubber boat in the province was dispatched to Barangay Lamo in Dupax del Norte town, where residents waded through chest-deep floodwaters.
Four people in Barangay Macalong in Kasibu were swept away by the current while they were asleep.
Of the 14 people reported killed as the typhoon slammed the northern and central areas of Luzon, nine were from Nueva Vizcaya and Isabela.
Five people were killed in Dinapigue town in Isabela province while 15 others were injured as the water level in the Magat Dam in Ramon town rose to 191.50 meters, way beyond its normal level of 174 meters.
In Angadanan town, also in Isabela, Ryan Calaoagan, 17, drowned when his boat capsized in the Magat River on Sunday. His body was found in nearby Cauayan City.
In Benguet province, Judy Ann Andiso, 4, and her mother Julie were sleeping when their house on a mountain slope in Buguias town collapsed. Julie was rushed to the Lepanto Mines Hospital in Mankayan town for treatment.
Buried in landslide
Agpawan Alyong, 53, was buried in a landslide in Lubuagan town in Kalinga province.
A 28-year-old mother and her 6-year-old daughter drowned on Sunday night after strong waves whipped by Paeng’s winds washed away their hut on the coast of Dilasag town in northern Aurora. They were identified as Jocelyn and Iza Viares of Barangay Dimaseset in Dilasag.
Aurora took the brunt of the typhoon. Floods rose waist-deep as of 4 a.m. yesterday in the towns of Dilasag, Casiguran and Dinalungan.
A province-wide blackout began at 11 p.m. on Sunday. Electricity had not been restored as of 3 p.m. yesterday.
More than 300 families in Casiguran and 65 others from Dinalungan evacuated to the town centers to escape rising floodwaters. They began returning to their villages before lunch time.
Ramon Aquino, public works regional director, said Paeng’s winds blew the roofs off seven school buildings, a health center and barangay hall in Pangitahan, also in Dilasag.
The Baler-Casiguran and Baler-Bongabon roads in Aurora were not passable due to landslides, Aquino said. The only access route to Aurora was the Pantabangan-Canili Road via Nueva Ecija province.
In Cagayan province, continuous rains since Sunday swelled the Cagayan River and its tributaries. Gov. Edgar Lara advised residents of Enrile, Alcala, Amulung and Iguig towns to take precautions as the Cagayan River continued to rise.
Tuguegarao City Mayor Randolph Ting readied schools to accommodate displaced residents from villages living along the Cagayan and Pinacanauan rivers.
The Capatan bridge and the Tawi bridge were under water, isolating most eastern villages of Tuguegarao and Peñablanca town.
Agriculture officials said the floods added to the misery of farmers whose crops were destroyed by previous typhoons.
On Malacañang’s instructions to ban travel to provinces under Storm Signal Nos. 3 and 4, police stopped motorists in Tarlac and in San Jose City in Nueva Ecija on their way to the Ilocos and Cagayan Valley regions. Many of them either turned back or waited for the typhoon to pass.
Quirino may have to live without electricity for at least two more days due to the damage caused by the typhoon to power lines in the province, said Nelson Macato, general manager of Quirino Electric Cooperative Inc.
Residents of Maddela and Nagtipunan towns were isolated from the rest of the province after a five-meter portion of the national highway was destroyed by the raging waters of the Tungcab River in Barangay Villa Sur in Maddela, according to Board Member Eleazar Balderas.
Balderas said the strong winds destroyed hundreds of hectares of banana plants.
In Baguio City, three people were hurt when their shanty on Ambuklao Road in Barangay Tiptop collapsed because of the continuous rains. They were Mylene Medina, 29, and her daughters Angelica, 9, and Danica, 5.
Presidential Chief of Staff Michael Defensor, who met with members of the Cordillera Regional Disaster Coordinating Council, said the major concern for the region was the loss of power since Sunday in Kalinga and Ifugao and parts of Apayao, Abra, Benguet and Mountain Province.
Kalinga was hardest hit when about 50 houses were damaged by the rains. More than 200 families evacuated to two elementary schools there.
Landslides closed to traffic the Cabugao Bridge and Claveria-Calanasan roads in Apayao, Balbalan-Pinukpuk Road in Kalinga, and the Mt. Province-Cagayan Road in Ifugao.
In La Trinidad town, the vegetable trading post went into full gear as 19 trucks hauled vegetables for Metro Manila, said Augusta Balanoy, Benguet Traders and Truckers Association executive secretary.
“Rain or no rain, the truckers must bring vegetables to Metro Manila to meet the huge demand as All Saints’ Day is fast approaching,” she said.
Paeng’s strong winds spared Laoag City, Ilocos Norte’s capital, as no damage or casualties were reported in the province.
The City Disaster Coordinating Council kept vigil at City Hall beginning Sunday night to provide relief and assistance to typhoon victims.
Roads connecting Ilocos Norte and Cagayan Valley to Ilocos Sur were all passable.
In Pangasinan province, disaster officials said Dagupan City and the Sta. Barbara-Urdaneta City Highway were flooded. Business was slow as residents opted to stay home.
Officials said 394 people were evacuated from the island Barangay of Mindoro in Bangar, La Union. Three families in San Fernando City were also moved to safer ground.
In Bulacan province, the water elevation in Angat Dam rose due to the rains brought by Paeng. As of Monday morning, the water level was 193.16 meters, up from 192 meters on Friday.
Rodolfo Santos, head of the Provincial Disaster Coordinating Council, said continuous rains in the last two days might further raise the dam’s water level.
In Olongapo City
, winds damaged some electric posts, cutting power to Barangays Gordon Heights, Kalaklan and Old Cabalan.
Three Asian Spirit flights bound for northern Luzon were cancelled early Monday.
Manila International Airport Authority officials said Asian Spirit’s morning flights to Basco in Batanes, Baguio and San Fernando in La Union were grounded. With reports from Cristina Arzadon, Estanislao Caldez, Delmar Cariño, Frank Cimatu, Yolanda Sotelo-Fuertes, Melvin Gascon and Villamor Visaya Jr., Inquirer Northern Luzon; Russell Arador, Allan Macatuno, Carmela Reyes and Tonette Orejas, Inquirer Central Luzon, and Dona Pazzibugan and Riza T. Olchondra in Manila