Super Typhoon Yolanda (international name Haiyan) – the strongest typhoon on record to make landfall – pounded the Visayas yesterday, toppling power and communication lines, uprooting trees, destroying houses and killing at least three people in its path.
Yolanda, packing winds of 235 kilometers per hour and gustiness of up to 275 kph, made landfall over Guiuan, Eastern Samar at around 4:30 a.m., cutting off the island town from all communication, local civil defense authorities said.
The government said three people had been confirmed killed in Surigao, Masbate and Zamboanga while seven others, including a man who fell off a gangplank in Cebu, are missing.
But the death toll was expected to rise, with authorities unable to immediately contact the worst affected areas and Yolanda only expected to leave the Philippines in the evening.
“As per initial report we received before communication went out, there’s massive destruction of houses in Eastern Samar. The municipal hall of Hernani town is flooded. Most roads on Bantayan Island in Cebu are no longer passable due to uprooted trees,” Allan Tabell of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) said in a press briefing held at the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.
Once communication is restored in the storm-hit areas, Tabell said it is expected that more reports of damage will come in. Telecommunication providers Smart, Sun and Globe are rushing the repair of 67 destroyed transmission lines to the Samar-Leyte provinces.
NDRRMC executive director Eduardo del Rosario said they are expecting communications to be restored in the Samar-Leyte areas within 24 hours.
Rosario said they were having difficulty establishing contact with Defense Secretary and NDRRMC chairman Voltaire Gazmin and Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II.
Both officials had been tasked by President Aquino to oversee government relief operations in Leyte during the storm.
NDRRMC spokesman Maj. Rey Balido said initial reports revealed three fatalities and seven missing.
Balido said that two of the fatalities were electrocuted by snapping power lines and pinned by falling electric posts in Surigao del Sur and Masbate, while another was hit by lightning in Zamboanga City.
He said seven people were missing in Guimaras and Iloilo.
The NDRRMC said the typhoon has forced 145,000 families to move out ahead of Yolanda’s landfall in Eastern Samar yesterday morning.
Malacañang was gratified that the public heeded government warnings to stay safe ahead of the storm, proof of which is the low number of casualties.
“We commend our countrymen for heeding the call of the government to take the necessary safety precautions and for following the evacuation measures that have been put in place by LGU officials,” Press Secretary Herminio Coloma said.
He noted the “low number of casualties” reported by the NDRRMC from the onslaught of the monster storm.
“We urge everyone to remain vigilant until the exit of the storm from the Philippine area of responsibility,” Coloma said.
“The President has directed all government agencies to conduct continuous search and rescue activities to ensure that, at the barangay level, all families and community members are accounted for,” he added.
President Aquino on Thursday urged the public to make all possible preparations for the monster storm.
More than 125,000 people in the most vulnerable areas had been moved to evacuation centers before Yolanda hit, according to NDRRMC, and millions of others huddled in their homes.
The military and police have been deployed for rescue and relief operations while social services are in full swing.
Such practice of deploying relief goods and rescue operations ahead of the storm and the activation of disaster risk reduction and management councils at the local level will always be observed by the administration, according to Coloma.
Several private firms like San Miguel Corp. offered relief goods to typhoon victims in coordination with the Department of Welfare and Social Development (DSWD).
Authorities said schools in the storm’s path were closed, ferry services suspended and flights cancelled.
In Metro Manila, on the northern edge of the typhoon’s path, many schools were closed amid forecasts of heavy rain.
Heavy rains in Metro
The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said heavy rains and gusty winds are expected over Metro Manila as Yolanda’s outer periphery passes over the region.
Yolanda was forecast to be 245 km west of Ambulong, Batangas this morning.
The monster storm, however, slightly weakened after making several landfalls, according to PAGASA weather forecaster Gener Quitlong.
Yolanda hovered over Dulag Tolosa in Leyte; Daang Bantayan and Bantayan Island in Cebu, Concepcion, Iloilo and Cuartero, Capiz.
As of 4 p.m. yesterday, the eye of the typhoon was spotted 115 kilometers west of Roxas City in Capiz or the western part of Antique province.
As of 5 p.m. signal no. 4 remained hoisted over extreme northern Palawan, Calamian Group of Islands, southern Occidental Mindoro, southern Oriental Mindoro, Aklan, Capiz, Antique, Iloilo, and Guimaras.
Signal no. 3 was raised over the rest of Mindoro provinces, Romblon, and the rest of northern Palawan, including Puerto Prinsesa City.
Under signal no. 2 were Lubang Island, Batangas, Marinduque, the rest of Palawan, Burias Island, Masbate, Ticao Island, Negros provinces, Cebu, Biliran Island, and Siargao.
Signal no. 1 remains hoisted over Metro Manila, Bataan, Cavite, Rizal, Laguna, Quezon, Camarines provinces, Albay, Sorsogon, Samar provinces, Leyte provinces, Camotes Island, Bohol, Siquijor, Camiguin, Surigao del Norte, and Dinagat province.
As of 5 p.m., Yolanda, with maximum sustained winds of 215 kph, was traversing the Sulu Sea and was expected to cross the Calamian Group of Islands between 8 and 10 p.m. yesterday.
It was forecast to exit Philippine landmass last night towards the West Philippine Sea moving west northwest at 40 kph. – Delon Porcalla, Alexis Romero, Evelyn Macairan, Danny Dangcalan, Rudy Fernandez, Cecille Suerte Felipe, Michelle Zoleta, Ben Serrano, Gerry Lee Gorit, Dino Balabo, Charlie Lagasca, AFP