LAWIN’S VICTIM — In Libag Norte, Tuguegarao City, a family spreads out clothes to dry on the roof of their house after it was flattened by Typhoon Lawin. The storm whipped up winds in excess of 200 kilometers as it roared across Northern Luzon on Wednesday. (Ali Vicoy)
By AP, Francis T. Wakefield, and Ellalyn B. De Vera
Vigan, Ilocos Sur – At least eight people were killed after super-typhoon “Lawin” smashed into northern Luzon with ferocious winds and rains overnight, flooding towns and forcing thousands to flee before weakening Thursday and blowing out of the Philippine area of responsibility (PAR) at 5 p.m. into the South China Sea.
Lawin’s blinding winds and rain had rekindled fears and memories from the catastrophe wrought by super-typhoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan) in 2013. Nearly 100,000 villagers were evacuated from high-risk communities as Lawin approached, helping prevent a larger number of casualties.
Undersecretary Ricardo B. Jalad, NDRRMC Executive Director and Office of Civil Defense (OCD) Administrator, said initial field reports show the fatalities were recorded in Region 1 (one), Region 2 (three), and Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) with four fatalities. Two persons were also reported missing in Region 2.
Jalad said they are having difficulty validating reports of casualty as at least 10 provinces and Baguio city are still without electricity. These provinces are Isabela, Cagayan, Apayao, Kalinga, Ilocos Sur, Ilocos Norte, Abra, Mountain Province, some parts of La Union and Benguet.
Romina Marasigan, NDRRMC spokesperson said CAR, Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, and La Union, were still experiencing bad weather yesterday.
Power, communication lines down
Globe Telecom, Inc., in its advisory, said Lawin’s powerful winds disrupted voice, call, and data service in Abra, Cagayan, Kalinga, portions of Ilocos Norte and Apayao. Globe said they already deployed technical teams in the typhoon ravaged areas to restore damaged facilities.
Smart Communications, Inc.on the other hand said service in the provinces of Cagayan, Isabela, Benguet, Ifugao, Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Kalinga and Mountain Province were severely affected but they had pre-positioned teams of engineers and technicians who are now working to restore wireless communications services in these affected areas.
Smart is now offering Libreng Tawag (Free Phone Calls) using Smart Satellite Phones at Santa Bridge, located in Barangay Sta. Tumauini, Isabela. Free Charging services are also available at Aurora Telecoms in Baler, Aurora. More Libreng Tawag Centers are expected to be opened later.
Romina Marasigan, NDRRMC spokesperson, said CAR, Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, and La Union, were still experiencing bad weather as of Thursday.
The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) said that as of noon yesterday, all roads and bridges along the Manila North Road are passable to all types of vehicles. However, only one lane is open to traffic at intermittent sections due to uprooted trees and fallen tree branches.
At least 28 road sections are closed to traffic. Eighteen road sections in Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) are still closed to traffic, one in Ilocos Region, four in Cagayan Valley, and five in Central Luzon due to flooding, road slips, damaged and submerged detour roads, damaged bridges, fallen electrical posts, soil collapse, and landslides.
After making landfall over Peñablanca, Cagayan, around 11 p.m. Wednesday evening, Lawin gradually weakened after it rammed into the Sierra Madre and Cordillera mountains. Less than 24 hours after its landfall, Lawin’s winds dropped from its peak strength of 225 kilometers per hour (kph) maximum sustained winds and gustiness of up to 315 kph, to 130 kph maximum sustained winds and gustiness of up to 160 kph before Thursday noon.
The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) lifted tropical cyclone warnings but retained cyclone signal No. 1 over Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union and Abra.
“In my age, I’m 60 years old, this is the strongest typhoon I have ever seen,” village councilor Willie Cabalteja told The Associated Press in Vigan city. “We haven’t slept. Trees were forced down, houses lost their roofs and fences and metal sheets were flying around all night.”
Jefferson Soriano, mayor of Tuguegarao, the capital of Cagayan where Lawin made landfall, reported badly damaged schools and gymnasiums where people had sought shelter.
“They are calling for help because the roofs have been torn off. The problem is, our rescuers here are unable to go out and help,” Soriano told DZMM radio before dawn while the storm was still raging.
After dawn, the extent of damage in Cagayan – about 500 kilometers (310 miles) north of Manila – and nearby regions became evident, with overturned vans, toppled or leaning electric posts and debris blocking roads. Most stores, their window panes shattered and canopies shredded by the wind, were close.
In northern Ilocos Sur province, ricefields resembled brown lakes under waist-high floodwaters, although cleanup operations had started.
“Search, rescue and retrieval operations are ongoing,” Jalad said in a statement.
Many of the provinces hit by the storm were still recovering from a powerful typhoon that killed two people and displaced tens of thousands of villagers last weekend.
Dams have bulged as heavy to intense rains made its way to the major reservoirs in Luzon.
Before Thursday noon, four dams, Ambuklao, Binga, San Roque and Magat, started releasing water to prevent the dam from overflowing into the downstream communities.
Both Ambuklao and Binga dams in Benguet have all their flood gates opened – eight gates for Ambuklao, and six gates for Binga.
Ambuklao Dam’s water level has already decreased by 2 centimeters on Thursday, while Binga Dam’s water elevation went up by 4 centimeters.
The water discharged from Ambuklao and Binga dams flow into San Roque Dam in Pangasinan.
The water level at San Roque Dam significantly increased by 4.49 meters due to water discharge from Ambuklao and Binga dams, and rains from Lawin.
San Roque Dam was already 1.72 meters above its 280-meter flood season high water level, prompting authorities to open one of its flood gates. As a result, at least 18 municipalities of Pangasinan have been affected by the release of water from San Roque Dam. These are San Manuel, San Nicolas, Tayug, Asingan, Santa Maria, Rosales, Villasis, Santo Tomas, Alcala, Bautista,Bayambang,Basista,Urbiztondo, Mangatarem, Aguilar, Bugallon, Lingayen and San Carlos City. (W/5184809e152f6b5b7f4799ccfa67c80f9d8be47e50370156011ae8d9f7faacfc/240/180