Entire nation on alert as Yolanda barrels towards Friday landfall
(Updated 5:56 p.m.) Emergency workers were placed on alert Wednesday and classes were canceled in several provinces as super typhoon Haiyan, which is projected to affect almost the entire country, headed towards the central Philippine islands.
PAGASA closely monitoring 'Haiyan' . A weather forecaster shows the location of super typhoon 'Haiyan' at the PAGASA office in Quezon City on Wednesday, November 6. Haiyan is forecast to enter the Philippine area of responsibility early Thursday morning, and will be locally named Yolanda. The typhoon threatens the Visayas region, parts of Southern Luzon, and Northern Mindanao. Asti Flores
"All concerned government agencies are on heightened alert to ensure swift response to affected residents, especially those in low-lying and flood prone areas," Presidential Communications Operations Office head Herminio "Sonny" Coloma Jr. said during a press briefing.
Coloma also said that rescue boats and emergency relief and medical supplies have been pre-positioned in strategic areas.
PAGASA expects the storm to enter the Philippine Area of Responsibility on Thursday, at which point it will be given the local name Yolanda.
As of 5 p.m. Wednesday, Typhoon Yolanda was packing maximum sustained winds of 175 kph and gustiness of up to 210 kph, PAGASA said.
“The whole country will experience partly cloudy to cloudy skies with light rains over the regions of Cagayan valley, Cordillera, Ilocos and central Luzon while Metro Manila and the rest of the country will have isolated rain showers or thunderstorms mostly over the eastern section,” the state weather bureau said in its 5 p.m. update.
In a separate interview, NDRRMC chief Eduardo Del Rosario told reporters that people with scheduled sea journeys should reconsider setting out as they might end up getting stranded in ports.
"Andiyan na po ang pre-positioning at sabihan ang mga kababayan na huwag nang magpalaot, huwag nang bumiyahe kasi baka ma-stranded lamang sila. Huwag silang mangisda, baka maabutan sila ng bagyo sa dagat," he advised.
"Maghanda sila ng emergency kits para kung may preemptive evacuation, mayroon silang kits na dala-dala, at handa sila for 24 to 48 hours," Del Rosario said.
"We are trying our best to have a zero casualty, but ang kailangan natin dito ay total cooperation, preparation and paghahanda ng local government units and national government organizations," he noted.
Philippine National Police director general Alan Purisima on Wednesday activated the National Headquarters Disaster Incident Management Task Group, which coordinates all disaster response operation among PNP units in affected areas.
Provinces, municipalities alerted
Classes in Albay and Bohol provinces were suspended at all levels Thursday and Friday as part of preparations for the approaching super typhoon.
Coloma said the areas that may be affected cover San Fernando, La Union in the north to Casiguran, Aurora in the northeast; Region III and the National Capital Region; Regions IV-A (CALABARZON), IV-B (MIMAROPA), Bicol Region (Region V); and the Visayas and some parts of Mindanao.
President Benigno Aquino III has already asked Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council to alert provincial and municipal disaster risk reduction and management councils, the palace official said.
Relief goods ready
Interior Secretary Mar Roxas directed all governors and mayors in the regions of Bicol, Eastern Visayas and Mimaropa to activate their local disaster risk reduction and management councils in preparation for the typhoon.
“Ang pagsisisi ay nasa dulo kaya ngayon pa lang, habang maaga ay kumilos,” Roxas said in a separate press conference on Wednesday.
In the same press conference, Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman reported that P195 million worth of goods are located in all DSWD field offices. Once the typhoon strikes, the goods will be ready for distribution.
“We have 83,203 pre-positioned booths in different parts of the country. Mayroon na ring pre-positioned food packs sa level ng probinsiya,” she said.
Schools as evacuation centers
Meanwhile, the Department of Education has directed school officials to coordinate with local government officials to designate which public schools could be used as evacuation centers.
“Sinabihan na namin ang mga public school na tanggalin ang mga nakasaksak na electric appliances at ilikas na ang mga libro,” DepEd Secretary Armin Luistro said in the same press conference.
Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson said the DPWH has deployed flood-control equipment in flood-prone areas.
He also advised that structures should be boarded up and tied down before the typhoon strikes. — with a report from Amanda Fernandez/BM/YA, GMA News