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 Noy 'very pleased' with preparedness

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PostSubject: Noy 'very pleased' with preparedness    Wed Oct 20, 2010 9:18 am

MANILA, Philippines - President Aquino commended his officials yesterday for their efforts in easing the impact of typhoon “Juan” through effective implementation of disaster preparations.

“I am very happy to report to the public that everyone has delivered. The thorough preparations of all concerned agencies are in marked contrast to the official helplessness of the past, and at present, we haven’t had to ask the public to contribute outside resources,” Mr. Aquino said in a statement.

Juan left 10 people dead and 12 injured, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).

The President extended his condolences to the families of the victims.

Juan (international code name “Megi”) dumped heavy rains on Metro Manila as it made its way out of the country. It left a wasteland of fallen trees and damaged houses in the Ilocos Region and in Cagayan Valley where thousands scrambled for safety in near-zero visibility.

“The damage and loss of lives could have been much greater had we not prepared for the storm. The actions of the government and the people themselves show what we can accomplish when we all cooperate to anticipate the needs of our people,” he said.

“This should serve as a timely reminder to all to depart from the notion that government decides (and) depends on one person, (but rather it) is a sum of all parts, the product of group effort and individual initiative and responsiveness,” he added.
Houses are submerged in floods in City Camp Lagoon in Baguio City yesterday. ANDY ZAPATA

The President said they were able to attend to the needs of affected communities because of the pre-positioning of supplies and equipment.

He said his officials’ excellent disaster response had allowed him to focus on other equally important matters such as presiding over the Anti-Poverty Cabinet Cluster Meeting and meeting with the Mindanao governors on Monday.

The President had been criticized for not attending the National Disaster Coordinating Council meeting on Monday.

“Yesterday morning (Monday), I presided over the anti-poverty Cabinet cluster meeting and then met with our Mindanao governors. Instead of engaging in rehearsed photo opportunities and idle chit-chat, we got the job done,” he said.

“We proved that together we can mitigate risk and that Filipinos working together can minimize the cost of natural disaster. While the storm is expected to leave the country, storm signals remain enforced and classes have been suspended in some parts of the country that continue to experience strong winds and rains,” the President said.

He cited the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) through the leadership of Science Secretary Mario Montejo and Undersecretary Graciano Yumul for its accurate and timely weather forecasts that enabled other agencies to prepare for Juan.

The President also commended Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman, and NDRRMC executive director Benito Ramos “for their effective management of their respective mandates.”

The President said that work is underway to rehabilitate areas ravaged by the typhoon, the 10th and the strongest to hit the country this year.

He said the Department of Social Welfare and Development was attending to the needs of 8,042 evacuees.

Metro classes suspended

Heavy rains, meanwhile, prompted the Department of Education (DepEd) to order the suspension of classes in Metro Manila yesterday.

DepEd National Capital Region officer-in-charge Elena Ruiz said the NDRRMC recommended the suspension of classes in the afternoon owing to the continuous heavy rains brought by typhoon Juan.

NDRRMC’s Ramos said the continuous heavy rains induced by the tail end of the typhoon made it imperative to recommend the suspension of classes, particularly in low lying areas in the National Capital Region.

DepEd earlier ordered the suspension of classes in Regions I, II and the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), in the regions where the typhoon directly struck.

Malacañang, through Memorandum Circular 4, also ordered the suspension of work in the affected areas.

Juan was forecast to regain strength over the South China Sea yesterday as it headed toward China and Vietnam, already buffeted by floods unrelated to the typhoon.

Juan packed sustained winds of 225 kilometers per hour and gusts of 260 kph as it made landfall in Isabela, felling trees and utility poles and cutting off power, phone and Internet services.

Its ferocious wind slightly weakened while crossing the Sierra Madre.

Blowing over the open sea, the typhoon’s massive outer bands still stretched over much of western Luzon and drenched Metro Manila and surrounding areas, snarling traffic and sending about 1,000 people out of their homes into temporary shelters.

Deaths

In Isabela, more than 4,150 people rode out the typhoon in sturdy school buildings, town halls, churches and relatives’ homes.

Roads in and out of the coastal province were deserted and blocked by collapsed trees, power lines and debris.

The dead included three men who drowned in a fishpond where the typhoon made landfall, and a man who had just rescued his water buffalo then slipped and fell into a river in Cagayan province.

A woman was pinned to death when a tamarind tree crushed her house and injured her child in Kalinga province, and a security guard died after being struck by a pine tree in Baguio City, officials said.

In Pangasinan, a mother and her four-year-old daughter and two-year-old son were pinned to death when a tree collapsed on their house. Lightning meanwhile killed a man in the same province.

At least 12 were injured in the region by falling trees, collapsed roofs and shattered glass, officials said.

There was near-zero visibility when the storm crashed ashore and radio reports said the wind was so powerful that people could not take more than a step at a time.

Ships and fishing vessels were told to stay in port, and several flights were canceled.

The entire Isabela province lost power along with 16 of Cagayan’s 28 towns. Cagayan Gov. Alvaro Antonio said the wind was fierce but blew high from the ground, sparing many rice fields ready for harvesting.

Although initial casualties were low compared to past storms, NDRRMC’s Ramos expressed sadness over the deaths. Bracing for the typhoon, he said, was like “preparing for war.”

“This was tougher because in war, I could take a nap,” Ramos, a retired general, said.

Thousands of military reserve officers and volunteers were on standby, along with helicopters, including six Chinooks that were committed by US troops holding war exercises with Filipino soldiers near Manila, Ramos said.

“We are dreaming (of) zero casualties (but) I think I will eat my words because we have some casualties (that were) already beyond my control,” Ramos said.

Ramos said they could not tell yet the actual cost of damage.

In July, authorities were caught off-guard by storm “Basyang” that killed more than 100 people in Manila and outlying provinces. This time, the capital was spared of a direct hit.
Houses are submerged in floods in City Camp Lagoon in Baguio City yesterday. ANDY ZAPATA

On the way out, but…

Although Juan was on its way out of the country, officials advised the public to remain vigilant because the typhoon had slowed down and might even come back.

“Is there a possibility that this typhoon would come back? There’s always this kind of possibility and this is the reason why every hour we are watching the typhoon,” DOST Undersecretary Yumul said.

Yumul said the typhoon had become “quasi-stationary” and could be pushed back to the Philippines by two weather systems in the vicinity of China, which were holding the typhoon back from its northwesterly track.

“For the next three days, if there are no changes, we expect good weather. The inter-tropical convergence zone will be the dominant system in Luzon and in the Visayas. So, there will be rainfall and rain showers. But if you are in Mindanao for the next three days, outdoor activities will be okay. We don’t see another low pressure area along the Philippine Sea. So we are okay,” Yumul said.

Aurea Calica, Philippine Star
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