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Sea trips, classes suspended: Cebu braces for ‘Samuel’

CEBU, Philippines — As Tropical Depression Samuel nears, Cebu and Central Visayas are not taking any chances.

Sea trips, classes suspended: Cebu braces for ‘Samuel’

Against a backdrop of hazy skies, sea vessels are seen on anchorage at Pier 1 in Cebu City as Tropical Depression Samuel is set to barrel through Northern Mindanao and parts of the Visayas.

Preparatory measures such as suspension of classes, cancellations of sea trips, and announcement of preemptive evacuations were in place yesterday as heavy rains brought by the disturbance may swamp low-lying areas and erode saturated slopes.



“We always aim for zero-casualty. But we can never prevent any phenomenon from happening and that is why we are preparing for the worst-case scenario,” said Ver Neil Balaba, acting chief of the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Division of the Office of Civil Defense in Region 7, in an interview after a coordination meeting on Monday.

He presided over the second regional pre-disaster risk assessment in Cebu City attended by members of the Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, which is headed by OCD.

Balaba said the office suggests to local government units to undertake preemptive evacuation, particularly in areas susceptible to landslide and flooding.


In his presentation, Alfredo Quiblat Jr., officer-in-charge of Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA)-Visayas, said Samuel is expected to dump huge volume of rainwater across the Mindanao and Visayas regions.

He said heavy rains may occur in Cebu starting today as Samuel approaches the province. Before it reaches landmass, Samuel is forecasted to intensify and be elevated to second category – tropical storm.

According to predictions, there is a “big” chance that Samuel makes its third landfall in Cebu on early Wednesday morning after it crosses Caraga region on Tuesday evening and Bohol on Wednesday dawn.

Yesterday afternoon, storm warning signal number 1 was already hoisted in Cebu and other localities in Visayas and Mindanao.

Quiblat said rainfall intensity is more risky than the wind strength Samuel brings. Wind force may vary from light to moderate that can destroy huts or substandard houses.

While he downplayed possibility of a storm surge in coastal villages, he said heavy rains may further intensify, bringing 15 to 30 millimeters of rainwater per hour. In equivalent, one square kilometer area can drown from 75,000 to 150,000 drums of water.

“Do not be complacent. Floods and landslides are most probably to happen in mountains or slopes or in river banks and in low-lying areas,” Quiblat said.

The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) in Region 7 has already issued threat advisory to Cebu province, especially to cities of Cebu and Naga.

Several areas in Cebu City, especially downtown area and near river channels, are prone to flooding while some communities in Naga City were reported to be vulnerable to landslide and subsidence.

Several villages in the towns of Tuburan, Asturias, and Tabuelan were also marked as being susceptible to landslide and flooding.

Given the circumstances, majority of the government agencies and offices were already in “blue alert” status on Monday. This means that all personnel and equipment are on standby due to an impending threat.

Baltazar Tribunalo Jr., chief of Cebu Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO), said the province has already alerted all its local counterparts from cities and municipalities down to barangays.

He said the office has also tapped the Department of Public Works and Highways in case heavy equipment is needed to clear roads that will be blocked from fallen trees.

To oversee the situation on the ground, the Capitol’s state-of-the-art command center will be operating day in and day out to monitor areas that are high risk of flooding and landslide, he added.

No sea travel

The Cebu Port Authority (CPA) and the Philippine Coast Guard District (CGD) Central Visayas also announced yesterday that several shipping lines cancelled sea travels, resulting in thousands of stranded passengers.

PCG Central Visayas reported a total of 76 sea trips cancelled and 2,266 passengers stranded (960 from Cebu and 1,306 from Bohol) as of 2 p.m. yesterday.

LTJG Mike Encina, spokesperson of PCG-CV, said that of the 76 sea trips, 28 were rolling cargoes, 23 were vessels, and 25 were motor bancas.

Also 12 vessels and 92 motor bancas took shelter as of the same time.

Passengers are discouraged from crowding or sleeping in the terminals. CPA seems to be at lost on how to assist stranded passengers who insist to stay at the terminals.

Classes suspended

Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña announced in his Facebook page yesterday afternoon that there will be no classes for all public schools under the jurisdiction of Cebu City today. Students from private schools and universities are advised to contact their school administrators directly.

There are also no classes today in Talisay City, Lapu-Lapu City, Mandaue City, and Carcar City.

Victor Yntig from the Department of Education-7 raised during the meeting that there should be earlier declaration on the suspension of classes to prevent any inconvenience of teachers and students.

He said what usually happened in the past was suspensions were declared while classes were already held.

He urged the council to give a recommendation especially that pupils, who are vulnerable ones, should be protected from possible risks.

The RDRRMC members, en masse, recommended to all local government units in entire Central Visayas to suspend classes for public schools from Kindergarten to Grade 12 today until Wednesday.

Private schools or institutions, which are independent from the government’s authority, are encouraged to also do the same.

The council’s bases for making such recommendation are the threat advisory issued by MGB-7 and the PAGASA’s warning that Cebu’s critical days are Tuesday and Wednesday.

Utility firms ready

Meanwhile, ahead of the extreme weather disturbance, the Metropolitan Cebu Water District is advising its customers to store water for their use for 24 hours.

In a statement, MCWD said that as Samuel threatens the Visayas and is expected to bring heavy rains, water supply interruptions may occur in the event of power outages and flooding in surface water sources.

At present, 70 percent of MCWD's daily supply comes from groundwater wells which rely on electricity to pump water out for distribution in the entire Metro Cebu.

For its part, the Visayan Electric Company (VECO) will be deploying feeder patrollers in the morning of Nov 20 to check on possible hazards to its lines such as trees that need trimming, billboards, etc. This is to ensure that lines are free from possible hazards once the typhoon starts to affect the areas within the VECO franchise.

VECO will also be implementing 12-hour shifts for its emergency crews and other responders starting 6 p.m. today as part of typhoon contingency.

“We advise the public to immediately report fallen poles, broken wires and other electrical emergencies to the VECO Customer Hotline 230-8326 or through the official VECO Facebook and Twitter pages. These customer touchpoints are available 24/7,” VECO said in a statement.


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