MANILA, Philippines — A brewing storm spotted over the Pacific Ocean earlier has intensified into a tropical depression and is expected to enter the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR) this Saturday, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said.
People in Northern Luzon began on Thursday to clean up storm-lashed houses and deal with the emotional rubble triggered by super typhoon “Juan” (international name: Megi), the new weather disturbance, to be called “Katring,” threatens to take a similar path.
Meanwhile, three dams continue to release water that caused flash floods in Tarlac.
Three gates of the Magat Dam in Ramon, Isabela, were opened to release water at 190.84 cubic meters per second. PAGASA said the dam can only hold 193 meters water level, the reason the gates were opened.
As of 6 a.m. on Thursday, Ambuklao Dam and Binga Dam opened four gates each.
The three dams started releasing water last Wednesday.
The La Paz-Zaragoza area, which includes a bridge that connects a town in Nueva Ecija and Tarlac, was rendered not passable to all types of vehicles due to the sudden rise of floodwater measured at four to five feet, said Senior Superintendent Amador Corpuz, director of the Tarlac police.
Cruz said the La Paz-Victoria Road is also not passable to light vehicles as of Thursday morning due to flood waters.
“At least 186 families were also evacuated in Barangay Salumague and nearby areas in Paniqui due to floodwaters about three to four feet,” said Corpuz in a phone interview.
“These areas are considered as catch basin so we already expected that to happen,” he added.
While all major roads in Pampanga are passable, Chief Superintendent Alan Purisima, director of the Central Luzon regional police, said some roads in inner barangays are still flooded by two to three feet.
In Zambales, Purisima said only one barangay in San Felipe town was submerged in knee-deep floodwater due to the overflowing of Bancalaguing River.
“We are fortunate that the sandbagging we made near Macolcol was not destroyed because if it happened, the entire town of San Felipe will be flooded,” said Purisima.
PAGASA weather forecaster Gener Quitlong said the tropical depression over the Marianas was 2,400 kilometers east of the country and is still out of the PAR as of Thursday.
It is moving west-northwest at 17 kilometers per hour (kph).
“The cyclone is still too far to affect any part of the country. If the cyclone track does not change, it will be inside the PAR by Saturday,” he said.
Once the weather disturbance intensifies into a tropical storm and enters the PAR, it will be named “Katring.”
Quitlong said the outer cloud band of typhoon Juan continues to bring rains over Northern and Central Luzon, including the western section of Southern Luzon.
Juan moved out of the PAR about 350 kilometers west-northwest of Laoag City on Thursday.
It remains “almost stationary” over the South China Sea moving at 7 kph in a north-northeast direction towards Hong Kong.
“Northern and Central Luzon continues to experience wind gusts, resulting in storm surges over the western seaboard of Luzon,” Quitlong said.
He said gale warning is still up in the western and northern seaboards of Northern Luzon because of the typhoon. PAGASA said sea condition in these areas will be rough.
Meanwhile, rough to very rough seas is expected in the eastern seaboard of Northern Luzon and the eastern seaboard of Central Luzon, including the seaboards of Southern Luzon and the western seaboard of Visayas.
“Fishing boats and other small sea crafts are advised not to venture out into sea, while larger sea vessels are alerted against big waves,” PAGASA said.
PAGASA compared Juan to the country’s strongest storms in history – Reming in 2006 with gustiness of 320 kph, and Sening in 1976 with gustiness of 275 kph.
PAGASA issued the highest storm warning signal 4 for Juan that packed maximum sustained winds of 225 kilometers per hour and gustiness of 260 kph, making it the strongest typhoon to hit the country in years.
Juan falls under a Category-5 typhoon, the highest classification for hurricane scale, which is similar to Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Katrina is deemed one of the most destructive hurricanes in the history of the United States.
As of 1 p.m. on Thursday, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) reported that a total of 19 people were confirmed dead while 28 others were injured in several areas in Northern Luzon and Central Luzon.
The most number of fatalities was reported in Pangasinan with seven, followed by Ilocos Norte, and Ilocos Sur with two each. A candidate for barangay council was the lone fatality reported in Cagayan.
There were one fatality each reported in Nueva Ecija, Tarlac, and Zambales while one each also in Kalinga, in Trinidad-Benguet, and Baguio City. In Metro Manila, one person was reported killed, particularly in Quezon City.
A total of 211,149 families composed of 1,015,895 persons were also reported affected 1,815 barangays in Northern Luzon and Central Luzon, 5,428 families or 23,127 persons are still housed in 170 evacuation centers.
Damage now P6 Million
The NDRRMC said damage to agriculture, fisheries, and infrastructure has already reached more than P6 million.
Based on the initial NDRRMC assessment report, a total of P4,771,750,424 damage to agriculture and infrastructure were reported in Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, and Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), the bulk of which is in agriculture and fisheries.
Eugene Cabrera, regional director of NDRRMC in Ilocos region, said the damage wrought by Juan in agriculture has already reached some P1.5 billion based on initial report. The hardest hit is the rice production commodity in Pangasinam which is at P971 million.
Cabrera said that the damage to infrastructure like roads and bridges is at P55 million in the provinces of La Union, Pangasinan, Ilocos Norte, and Ilocos Sur.
Ellalyn de Vera & Aaron Recuenco, Manila Bulletin