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Isabela, Aurora, Bicol region begin evacuations

October 2, 2009 7:03pm

Thousands of residents of provinces expected to be hit by typhoon "Pepeng" have begun evacuating their homes in anticipation of its landfall on Saturday, officials said Friday.

Officials from Isabela, Aurora, and the Bicol region ordered the preemptive evacuation of people living in low-lying areas as "Pepeng" continued to move closer.

In a phone interview with GMANews.TV, Isabela provincial administrator Paul Fernandez said 584 families from the municipalities of Cabagan and Dinapigue have fled their homes to seek shelter in locations such as a warehouse, school, and a barangay hall.

Isabela Gov. Grace Padaca has instructed local officials to prepare for the typhoon since yesterday, Fernandez said, and that the police have carried out a directive of the National Disaster Coordinating Council's (NDCC) to implement pre-emptive evacuation when necessary.

"Ito yung identified nahigh-risk, low-lying areas (These are the identified high-risk, low-lying areas)," he said, adding that more evacuations would likely be conducted as the typhoon draws nearer.

While the province is flood-prone due to the heavily silted Cagayan River which traverses it, authorities are more worried that the strong winds "Pepeng" will bring would be more destructive than floods, Fernandez said.

State weather forecasters said as of 5 p.m. Friday, "Pepeng" was 150 kilometers north-northeast of Virac, Catanduanes, packing maximum sustained winds of 195 kilometers per hour and gustiness of up to 230 kph.

Fernandez assured, however, that the province has search and rescue teams on standby. "There is also an ongoing packing of relief goods just in case these will be needed," he said.

Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara told GMA News.TV in a phone interview that over a thousand families have been evacuated from low-lying areas all over the province.

The congressman said more evacuations will be done depending on how the typhoon will develop in the coming hours.

Other regions

In its midday advisory, the Regional Disaster Coordinating Council (RDCC) of Region 5 (Bicol region) said about 6,672 people or 1,625 families have evacuated their homes while about 1,983 passengers have been stranded due to heavy rains and gusty winds.

Local disaster coordinating councils are on standby for effective coordination, while government forces were deployed to various flood-prone areas in Catanduanes and Albay for rescue operations.

In Region 2 (Cagayan Valley), Chief Superintendent Roberto Damian director of the Cagayan Valley Region Police and concurrent RDCC-2 chairman — said they are prioritizing the evacuation of those dwelling on coastlines and in flood- and landslide-prone areas.

“What we are doing now is to appeal to them to encourage them to go to evacuation centers for their safety kasi malakas daw ito (because this typhoon is reportedly strong)," Damian said in a phone interview.

He said the police will forcibly evacuate those who refuse to move out.

“Our experiences reveal that those who do not want to leave are the same ones whom we would desperately try to rescue later, so if we feel that they are already in danger, we will forcibly take them to evacuation centers," said Damian.

While some provinces in Luzon have been busy with pre-emptive evacuation, Imelda Acosta, civil defense officer of Region 1 (Ilocos region) said her office has not received reports of evacuations as of posting time.

She assured, however, that local government units have already been informed of the pre-emptive evacuation plan and that at least 1,000 shelters have been identified for residents living in vulnerable areas. - Johanna Camille Sisante and Aie Balagtas See, GMANews.TV
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