Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Typhoon Gains Strength

MANILA, Philippines --- Flights were cancelled, thousands of travelers were stranded and one person was reported missing as Typhoon "Lawin" (international name: Jelawat) strengthened Monday, the weather agency reported. Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) forecaster Nikos Peñaranda said the typhoon was moving ever so slowly away from the country, and could hit land in extreme Northern Luzon on its way out. The Hawaii-based Joint Typhoon Warning Center classified Lawin as a "super typhoon" on Monday, but PAGASA does not use the term for its tropical cyclone system. Storm warnings in the Visayas have been lifted, although the 700-kilometer-wide typhoon will still bring intermittent light to moderate rains and at times heavy rains over Northern and Eastern Samar, and Leyte. As of 5 p.m. yesterday, "Lawin" was tracked at 375 kilometers east of Virac, Catanduanes, moving at 9 kph north-northwest with 185 kph winds gusting up to 220 kph. It is expected to be 640 km east of Infanta, Quezon, by this morning. By Wednesday morning, it will be 530 km east of Tuguegarao City and at 430 km east of Calayan Group of Islands by Thursday morning. "There is still a slight chance that Lawin will make landfall over the extreme Northern Luzon in the Batanes-Cagayan area, but if it will sustain its northward track, Lawin will move closer to the landmass of Okinawa, Japan," Penaranda said. While the typhoon is too far from the country, it has enhanced the southwest monsoon or habagat that will bring occasional light to moderate rains to at times heavy rains in Palawan and the western section of Visayas and Mindanao until Tuesday. As Lawin moves northward, monsoon rains will be concentrated in Southern Luzon and Metro Manila by Wednesday or Thursday, he said. Four big dams in Luzon - Angat, Ipo, Binga, and Magat - opened its spillways in anticipation of Lawin's rains. The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) reported at least one person was missing after heavy rains triggered floods in parts of Mindanao. The victim is a resident of Barangay San Vicente, Sirawai, Zamboanga del Norte. The NDRRMC said bad weather has stranded 4,505 people, 190 rolling cargoes, 179 buses and trucks, 64 trucks and five vessels in the ports of Matnog, Sorsogon; Tagbilaran, Bohol; Cebu; Balwarteco, Allen, Northern Samar; and Dapdap, Allen, Northern Samar. The Philippine Navy yesterday placed all its units in Central Visayas and Southern Luzon on standby for rescue operations. Col. Omar Tonsay, the Navy spokesman, said disaster rescue teams (DRTs) and all available assets of the Cebu-based Naval Forces Central (Navforcen) were placed on full alert. "In Region 6, BRP Jose Andrada (PG-370) and DF-339 were placed in full alert in wake of "Lawin" while BRP Abraham Campo (PG-396) and BRP Carlos Albert (PG-375) were also placed on alert footing in region 7," said Tonsay. In region 8, BRP Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo (PG-140)and DF-353 were likewise deployed for possible rescue and relief missions. Tonsay said four disaster response task units (DRTUs) were placed on standby in Iloilo, Tacloban, and Cebu. Each DRTU is composed one 6x6 truck with 12 personnel and one rubber boat. For Naval Forces Southern Luzon, DF-388, BRP Simeon Castro (PG-374), BRP Hilario Ruiz (PG-378), BRP Gen. Antonio Luna (PG-141) and BRP Apolo Tiano (PG-851) and three DRTUs are on alert. Fourteen domestic flights were cancelled yesterday because of Lawin. The Media Affairs Division of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) said Air Philippine cancelled its turn-around flights to Masbate, Calbayog and Catarman while Zest Air cancelled its turn-around flight to Masbate. Cebu Pacific cancelled two round-trip flight services to Dumaguete City and another round-trip flight from Manila to Calbayog. The management of the affected air carriers said all affected passengers will be accommodated on the next available flight once the weather clears. (Additional report from Anjo Perez)