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Forced evacuation starts in Cagayan as Juan intensifies

(Updated 8 p.m.) Typhoon Juan intensified further Sunday and now endangers northern Luzon where two provinces have been placed under storm signal no. 4. The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said Juan is now packing maximum winds of 225 kilometers per hour (kph) with gustiness of up to 260 kph. Storm signal No. 4 is raised when winds exceed 200 kph. The last time PAGASA raised a signal No. 4 alert was in 2006 during typhoon Reming, which killed more than 700 people and damaged property worth over P5 billion. PAGASA advised families in northern Luzon to have at least one member stay awake through the night in case flash floods or landslides occur. As of 4 p.m., PAGASA said Juan was 390 kilometers (km) east of Aparri, Cagayan moving at 22 kph west and may exit via Ilocos Norte to the South China Sea by Tuesday. By Monday afternoon it is expected at 100 km east of Aparri or 50 km southeast of Laoag City. By Tuesday afternoon it is expected at 500 km west of Laoag City. Under Storm Signal 4, where winds can uproot trees, are Cagayan and Isabela provinces. Placed under Signal 3 are Batanes, Calayan, Babuyan, Apayao, Kalinga, Mt. Province, Ifugao, Quirino, and Northern Aurora. Under Storm Signal No. 2 are Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Abra, La Union, Benguet, Nueva Vizcaya, and the rest of Aurora. Under Signal No. 1 are Pangasinan, Tarlac, Nueva Ecija, and Polillo. “Residents living in low lying and mountainous areas under public storm warning signals are alerted against possible flashfloods and landslides," PAGASA said. It added that families in coastal areas under signal Nos. 4, 3, and 2 were alerted to expect possible storm surges. Evacuation starts Disaster management officials in Cagayan Valley have meanwhile started preemptive evacuation of people in high-risk areas as the effects of super typhoon Juan intensifies in northern Luzon. Benito Ramos, executive director of the National Disaster Risk-Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC, formerly the National Disaster Coordinating Council or NDCC), said the voluntary evacuation of the residents, particularly those along the Cagayan river, were ongoing as of this posting. He said that residents have learned their lessons from last year’s typhoon Pepeng that caused massive flooding in the area and claimed over 400 lives. “They have lessons learned there [from Pepeng]…They are now on the higher ground and did not wait for government [to evacuate them]….These people have started [evacuating]… They are with their relatives in higher ground," he said. Forced evacuation has started in coastal areas, according to radio dzBB. Local officials said at least four evacuation centers in Gonzaga and Santa Ana towns in Cagayan were opened Sunday for villagers in low-lying coastal areas. Some villagers have also been evacuated to assigned sites such as barangay halls and schools, especially residents from high-risk areas in Aparri, Buguey, and Ballesteros towns, said Benito Ramos, head of the NDRRMC (formerly National Disaster Coordinating Council or NDCC). Villagers near the water tributaries along Casili river in Mallig Plains, San Mariano river in San Mariano, and the Chico River in Kalinga have also started fleeing their homes as a safety precaution, Ramos said. The council urged residents along coastal areas to seek safer grounds as "ocean surges" can be expected as the typhoon moves closer to land. “Anytime today, the forced evacuations can start, Norma Talosig, regional director of the Civil Defense Office, said in an an earlier interview on dzBB Sunday. Juan is forecast to make landfall in Cagayan Valley within the next 24 hours, according to the weather bureau. Emergency response As of 3 p.m Sunday, typhoon Juan was located at 410 km east of Aparri, with maximum sustained winds of 195 kph and gustiness of up to 230 kph, according to the bulletin of Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical & Asrtonomical Services Administration (PAGASA). “Cagayan including Calayan and Babuyan Group of Islands, and Isabela will experience stormy weather with rough to very rough seas," PAGASA said. “Cagayan including Calayan and Babuyan Group of Islands, and Isabela will experience stormy weather with rough to very rough seas," the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical & Asrtonomical Services Administration said in its latest bulletin Sunday. “The rest of Northern Luzon will have rains and gusty winds. The rest of the country will experience mostly cloudy skies with scattered rainshowers and thunderstorms," the weather bureau also known as PAGASA added. At least four areas were placed under Storm Signal No. 3 Sunday as Juan (international name: Megi) continued to intensify and endanger northern Luzon, including Cagayan Valley, Calayan islands, Babuyan islands, and Isabela, the weather bureau said. Signal No. 3 signifies that maximum winds of up to 185 kilometers may pass through those areas, according to PAGASA. Areas that may experience 60 kph-100 kph winds and have storm signal No. 2 include Batanes islands, Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur, Apayao, Abra, Kalinga, Mountain Province, Ifugao, Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino, and Northern Aurora. In La Union, Benguet, Pangasinan, Nueva Ecija, and Aurora, storm signal No. 1 is raised as of 1 p.m., meaning winds between 30 kph-60 kph may pass brought about by typohoon Juan. Emergency response The Magat Dam water elevation in Ramon town, Isabela has remained stuck at 183.5 meters, still way below the 193-meter spill level, according to engineer Saturnino Tenedor, National Irrigation Administration dam instrumentation chief. In Isabela, the provincial government has put up a 24-hour emergency response team, manned by workers from the social welfare department, the Isabela risk-reduction management team, the provincial disaster coordinating council team and other agency representatives, Isabela Gov. Faustino Dy III said. He also ordered advanced delivery of relief goods on Saturday and Sunday to various towns for distribution to villagers who may be affected once the typhoon makes landfall. PAGASA warned that Metro Manila residents the may feel the effects of Juan even if the typhoon will not directly pass over the area, as of the the latest weather report as of posting time. “It is not likely to hit Metro Manila. It is heading for Aparri, Cagayan. But once Juan makes landfall, Metro Manila residents may feel its effects because it is expected to affect a large area," PAGASA forecaster Anthony Lucero said in a separate interview on dzBB radio. “Our emphasis is now on preemptive evacuation, which is easier than doing rescue work. Our objective is early end-to-end warning, to issue the correct warning for the people to respond and move. This may lessen the impact of a strong typhoon," Talosig said. “(But) if we have to conduct a forced evacuation we will do it for safety," she added. Police, military prepared NDRRMC chair Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin on Sunday called for a meeting of representatives of attached government agencies to check their typhoon preparations. Gazmin initially planned to fly to Cagayan yesterday to check on the preparations but Ramos said the plan was aborted because of thick clouds. Philippine National Police spokesperson Senior Supt. Agrimero Cruz meanwhile said the PNP is on full alert since yesterday and police authorities can respond to any eventuality as needed. For his part, Armed Forces of Philippines spokesperson Brig. Gen. Jose Mabanta said military forces in Northern Luzon have deployed soldiers as part of the preparations for typhoon Juan. Philippine Navy spokesperson Lt. Col. Edgard Arevalo added, “The Philippine Navy is continuously monitoring events in relation to typhoon Juan. Its rescue teams are prepared to help residents and local government units." Evacuation centers Local government units have already identified evacuation centers along with the villages likely to be affected by Juan, according to Norma Talosig, Civil Defense Office regional regional director. In Cagayan, these are the coastal areas, the prone communities that are low-lying and prone to flooding and landslides, Talosig added. Lucero said the effects of the storm signals will be felt in the next 24 hours as Juan will likely intensify further as it rages at sea and gathers strength. The weather bureau went on red alert Sunday, according to deputy director Nathaniel Servando. Servando said quick response teams were dispatched to northern Luzon to help update information as to when and where Juan will actually make landfall. "Moderate to strong winds blowing from the northeast to north will prevail over rest of Luzon and the coastal waters along these areas will be moderate to rough. Elsewhere, winds will be light to moderate coming from the northeast to northwest with slight to moderate seas," the weather bureau said in its bulletin. Meanwhile, the PAG-ASA station in Aparri has reported experiencing technical problems hampering its delivery typhoon updates. “We are now faced with internet connection problem which we need to quickly send information to the central office for the latest images," said Jose Rico Mercado of the PAGASA station in Aparri in an interview also on dzBB. — VS, GMANews.TV