Christmas in evac centers likely: Cebu braces for ‘Ursula’
CEBU, Philippines — If it takes spending Christmas at the evacuation centers to be safe, then by all means, it shall be implemented.
Not taking any chances, disaster officials in Cebu are planning to enforce preemptive evacuations in areas susceptible to landslides, storm surges, and flooding ahead of Tropical Depression Ursula, which is expected to barrel across the Visayas on Christmas eve to Christmas Day.
Neil Sanchez, head of the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO), told The FREEMAN yesterday that he will convene the PDDRM Council today for the pre-disaster risk assessment in preparation for the coming of typhoon Ursula.
“We will convene the response clusters of the PDDRMC tomorrow (today) for the assessment… and other courses of action regarding proactive measures,” he said.
Sanchez said that part of the proactive measures the PDRRMC will take is to urge residents to comply with preemptive evacuations, which involves the residents leaving their respective homes and moving to safer grounds.
“Preemptive evacuations, especially in the high-risk areas, are part of the measures to be undertaken,” he said.
As of yesterday, the weather disturbance outside the Philippine area of responsibility had already progressed into a tropical depression. It was last spotted at about 1,510 kilometers east of the Mindanao landmass.
Once it enters the PAR, it will be named “Ursula,” the 21st typhoon to cross the country this year.
Monitoring made by the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) showed that the tropical depression is travelling west northwest at 25 kilometers per hour with maximum sustained winds of 55 kph and gustiness of up to 70 kph.
If it follows its current trajectory, it may cross the Visayas island group sometime between Christmas eve and Christmas Day on December 24 and 25.
According to Romeo Aguirre, a weather specialist at the PAGASA Mactan Station, the tropical depression will develop into a tropical storm once it enters the Philippine area possibly this morning, December 23.
PAGASA Visayas chief Al Quiblat had said earlier that the projected landfall area is somewhere in Northern Mindanao or Eastern Visayas.
He said there is up to 70 percent chance that it will make landfall in Leyte province, which is separated only from mainland Cebu by the Camotes Sea.
By late Tuesday, December 24, the tropical depression would have already turned a tropical storm as it would cross the Visayas. The following day, Christmas, its eye is projected to pass through Cebu, and is expected to dump intense rains in the province.
The PAGASA does not discount the possibility that Cebu may be placed under Tropical Cyclone Warning Signal No. 2 during these days.
The state weather bureau said that weather on Tuesday is expected to be cloudy, and on Wednesday, it will be rainy. Owing to the heavy rains, landslides and flashfloods may also occur.
Rains are seen to persist until Thursday, December 26, but PAGASA estimated that the skies would already be clear Thursday noon.
Sanchez said that the PDRRMO has coordinated with the local disaster risk reduction and management offices in the cities and municipalities of Cebu and asked them to meet their members and make necessary preparations for the coming typhoon.
The Philippine Coast Guard in Central Visayas, for its part, has alerted its stations and substations on the severe weather forecast.
Coast guard officials have asked shipping companies and fisherfolk to stay updated with the weather bulletin issued by PAGASA and not to venture out to the sea if weather and sea conditions are unfavorable.
In addition, they assured that quick response teams and search and rescue equipment are on standby, ready to respond as needed.
PCG Central Visayas District remains on heightened alert for the Oplan Biyaheng Ayos for Christmas 2019 implemented by the Department of Transportation from December 16, 2019 to January 5, 2020.
The district may be reached via these hotlines: 09176221624 (Coast Guard Station Cebu); 09054024431 (CG Station Southern Cebu); 09178397878 (CG Station Eastern Bohol); 09178163121 (CG Station Western Bohol); and 09178095729 (CG Station Camotes). (FREEMAN)