LEGAZPI CITY — The provincial government of Albay on Saturday morning continued evacuating residents who are threatened by strong winds, mud and lahar flows, floods, landslides and storm surges.
Those ordered to evacuated by Governor Joey Sarte Salceda may reach about 600,000 people who are most likely to experience these threats.
Salceda on Friday issued a directive to government troops and disaster responders to start evacuation that should be finished on or before Saturday night, when typhoon “Ruby” was originally estimated to make a landfall.
He requested 30 military trucks from Office of Civil Defense Director Bernardo Alejandro, concurrently Regional Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council chair, to be used for evacuation of 183,180 families or close to 600,000 people.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines has committed 73 military vehicles, 1,223 troops, 2 ambulances and 3 rubber boats to be sent to the 9th Infantry Division command post for Typhoon “Ruby” based in Camp Gen. Simeon A. Ola here for disaster response operation all over the Bicol Region, according to Brig. Gen. Felix Castro Jr., Task Force Sagip commander.
Based on the record of the Albay Public Safety and Emergency Management Office, at least 57,421 families would be affected by floodings; 14,546 families, by landslides; 37,704, lahar and mud flows; 27,154, storm surges; and 46,335, strong winds (families with light material houses).
Salceda’s directive came after Ruby (with international name: Hagupit) slowed down with 700-km-diameter coverage area, packing maximum winds of 215 kph and gustiness of 250 kilometer per hour.
“We’re preparing for supertyphoon Reming-like event here. We must apply Reming learnings. Half of Albay population will be evacuated. For storm surge, rich and poor families — especially at beach resort towns of Sto. Domingo and Bacacay will be evacuated to safer grounds because we’re anticipating for a 15-foot storm surge, considering that there is no buffer zone in Albay Gulf,” the governor said.
Eight years ago, Reming pummeled the Bicol Region, specifically in Albay province, for eight hours without letup.
At least 1,500 people were buried alive by cascading walls of volcanic debris and washed to the seas on November 30, 2006.
Reming left hundreds of thousands families homeless, massive devastation to agricultural crops and destroyed multibillion-peso government and private infrastructures.
The governor also directed local officials from city, municipal to barangay levels to trim trees near their residences so that these will not fall on the roof and electric posts.
“Trim trees that could fall on electric posts. Our experience shows that it takes time and effort to restore power due to fallen posts which also scuttle the wires. And as far as housing is concerned, it is just as difficult to find rehab funds for housing materials. We should do this because we keep coming back to the national government and international non-government organizations and international agencies for help for Reming in 2006, for Juaning in 2011, Glenda in 2014 and Mayon pre-emptive in 2014,” Salceda said.
“I will still do everything to restore everything but it is in our own interest to implement simple measures to reduce damages. So we save our hard-earned fixed capital and also avoid the liquidity trap between disaster and recovery,” he added.
Lilian Guillermo, officer-in-charge of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) in Bicol, told disaster officials here in a briefing Friday afternoon that heavy-to-intense rains will cause massive flooding and could trigger landslides across the region.
“Albay is placed on red alert with expected rainfall of 55-60 mm per hour. Coastal waters along the seaboards and eastern coast of Albay will experience storm surges, so be ready,” she said.
Guillermo said Ruby slowed down and this would the typhoon much more time to develop and gain strength, specifically that she is within the ocean.
“The typhoon will landfall in Eastern Samar and pass through the southern tip of Sorsogon. But because Albay is very near Sorsogon, most likely these provinces will experience similar wind strength of 215 kph associated with heavy precipitation. The wind is stronger than Reming’s and it might hit us for seven hours as Ruby slows down,” she added.
“This would give us more time to prepare for Ruby’s arrival, but we must anticipate stronger winds and heavy rainfall. Remember that the longer a typhoon stays in the ocean, the greater it generates stronger winds — making it more powerful by the time it makes landfall within the landmass,” Guillermo explained.
Ed Laguerta, Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology resident volcanologist in Bicol, also warned disaster officials that with intense rainfall, an upper-level landslide from Mayon might occur, thus, remobilizing the volcano’s old volcanic debris deposited at that portion.
In Sorsogon province, the Matnog Port was declared a no-man’s zone, grounding all sea vessels in all seaports in Bicol for safety.
The Office of Civil Defense and Philippine Coast Guard in Bicol grounded all forms of sea transportation in all seaports to prevent possible eventualities.
In Albay province, all sea vessels took refuge in Sula channel in Cagraray Island, Bacacay town.