Philippine authorities bracing for potential super typhoon "Pepeng"

10:41, October 02, 2009      

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Philippine Authorities are bracing for what they described as another "major problem" that may be caused by potential super typhoon "Pepeng" this weekend while the country is still recovering from the massive damage incurred from tropical storm "Ondoy," (international code name: "Ketsana").

The National Disaster Coordinating Council executive officer and concurrent Office of the Civil Defense administrator Glenn Rabonza said on Thursday they are expecting downpour in Metro Manila, one of the areas hardest hit by "Ondoy" which wrecked havoc last weekend.

NDCC chairman and Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro, acting Interior undersecretary Melchor Rosales, Rabonza yesterday gathered civil defense coordinators in Camp Aguinaldo to map up preparedness plans for Pepeng.

After the meeting, Teodoro also flew to Northern Luzon provinces to meet with local officials to check on their preparedness. Weather officials said Pepeng may hit Northern Luzonon Saturday but it is expected to bring in rains in Metro Manila.

Rabonza said an advisory from the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration showed the general track of "Pepeng" and if its track would not change, it will hit Northern Luzon either on Saturday morning or afternoon.

"Its cloud band is big so the rains that it will bring will also reach Central Luzon and it will also be felt in Manila," said Rabonza, adding the strength of "Pepeng," which has entered the country's area of responsible on Thursday, is about 150 kph but this could grow to as high as 200.

"If we reach 200 (kph), we might have a category four. Hopefully not. But experience wise, that will grow stronger," said Rabonza.

Rabonza said he hopes that authorities are wrong. "If they are wrong that's okay but if correct? So we have to prepare," he said, adding that the critical period are on Saturday and Sunday.

"That's too soon so the chairman (Teodoro) decided to meet the Metro Manila civil defense coordinators here to check on our preparedness," he said.

He said among the issues discussed in the meeting were the possible flooding in the metropolis and possible pre-emptive evacuation of people who are living in high-risk areas. He said the issue of extended relief operations was also discussed.

When asked if they are expecting heavy downpour similar to what "Ondoy" has brought, Rabonza said: "I think its safe to say that we expect. Its safe to assume."

On what was the advice given to the local civil defense coordinators, Rabonza said: "Prepare yourselves."

In a separate interview in Camp Aguinaldo, Rosales said: "We are facing another hard. The typhoon has entered our Philippine area of responsibility so chairman Teodoro and myself met with the Metro Manila disaster council directors."

"We have to start preparations now...According to PAGASA, this is potentially a strong typhoon so the problem is we are just recovering in Metro Manila (from the effects of Ondoy) and this again affect us added Rosales.

Rosales said the DILG has ordered local officials to speed up the clearing of debris that have yet to be collected, otherwise "we might have a problem" on flooding. He said that Rizal Governor Casimiro Ynares III has offered to open the landfills in San Mateo, Rodriguez and Moro towns for the debris in Metro Manila.

"Now, the President wants a lot of pre-emptive and pro-active action now. That is why we have to deliver the warnings as early as this time that what I described to you as possible hazard can develop into a major problem again," said Rosales.

"So we must prepare now. We gave instructions to all the barangay disaster coordinating committees... to already warn their constituents to brace for another thing...It's better that we prepare as early as this time, try to speed up the cleanup drive so that we can have some non-accumulation of water if and when it starts to rain again," added Rosales.

Rosales said the local officials were told to prepare more evacuation centers to host those who may be displaced by "Pepeng."

"Warning have to be given out today. (We discussed) preparations for the evacuation centers, preparation for extended relief because we are providing relief now (to the victims of 'Ondoy'). If there will be additional evacuees, that's going to be extended relief," he said.

"When you say extended relief, you are really not just dealing with food. You are talking about health, sanitation, hygiene and so many other things that have to be attended to on a day to day basis," he added.

Rosales also said they discussed for the extension of better disaster response. "We are preparing for a better response system, for additional assets now. The President directed the chairman (Teodoro) to have a prepositioning of assets," he said.

Meanwhile, data from the NDCC indicated that as of 3 p.m. Thursday, the casualty toll from "Ondoy" has risen to 280 dead, 42missing and four injured. About 512,092 families or 2,506,845 persons have been affected and caused about 4.8 billion pesos (about 101 million U.S. dollars) in damages to agriculture and infrastructure.

Source: Xinhua

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