It will be a sunny Christmas after tropical depression (TD) Vinta spared Bohol, which in earlier weather forecasts was seen to be on the path of Vinta’s wrath.
The sun shone brightly after two days of rains and cloudy skies with brief moments of winds swirling around Tagbilaran City and other places in the province.
The city pier was packed to the rafters with passengers trying to catch the trip after nearly two days of trip cancellations.
TD Vinta spewed its wrath on hapless areas of Mindanao. After it drifted toward southern Palawan, flooding occurred in some parts of Mindanao, most severelyin Cagayan de Oro City.
Agence France Presse (AFP) reported Saturday the death toll from the storm may have reached 133 people, as massive mudslides covered homes and entire villages. Dozens of people are still missing after Vinta unleashed her fury.
Local officials said it is probable the death toll may rise as first responders are having trouble reaching remote areas in Mindanao, which has been hardest hit by Vinta’s wrath.
Reuters reported some residents ignored officials’ warning to leave their homes located near disaster-prone areas such as riverbanks and coastal areas.
Manuel Luis Ochoterena, an official of a disaster agency, told Reuters, “many people were swept to the sea as flood waters quickly rose due to the high tide.”
He added: “They never heeded the warnings. They thought it was a weak storm, but it dumped more rains.”
Sources say there were 50 people who reportedly died in Zamboanga del Norte, 36 were killed in Lanao del Norte and 18 in Lanao del Sur, and five in Bukidnon.
Several deaths were tallied in Tubod town where the storm’spresence caused flash floods and mudslides.
Soldiers and other responders frantically dug with shovels into the mud to rescue the victims of the mudslide in barangay Dalama, near Tubod town. Landslides made some roads impassable
AFP quoted an official of Lanao del Sur province Saripada Pacasum saying, “we forced hundreds of people to evacuate some villages, but the water rose swiftly, and our rescuers cannot reach other areas.”
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque in a statement said, “It is unfortunate that another tropical cyclone… made its presence felt so near Christmas.”
A small landslide buried several houses in the town of Tugaya and killed two children, with five other people missing and believed trapped beneath the rubble, Pacasum said.
At home, Bohol officials braced for the worst as Vinta made her approach for a landfall on Friday. However, the storm tracking by the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) showed the storm veering southward by Friday, effectively sparing Bohol from a direct hit.
On Thursday, the different disaster risk reduction councils of the local government units assembled to plan out disaster mitigation plans. The City Disaster Risk Reduction Office headed by Gerard Lavadia reportedly convened in a local restaurant.
The Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management office headed by Anthony Damalerio convened the council on Thursday morning,and the result of the meet was revealed during the joint meeting of the Provincial Anti-Drug Abuse Council (PADAC) and the Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC) at the People’s Mansion.
Officials didn’t take the storm for granted. Units were dispatched in anticipation of flooding in prone areas as well as landslides. There are parts of Bohol especially in Jagna town and other towns in the eastern seaboard of the island that are prone to landslides.
Bohol Gov. Edgar Chatto sounded the alarm by ordering all 47 towns and one city to prepare for the worse and leave no stone unturned on the weather situation.
Emergency plans kicked in to mitigate the impact of the tropical depression. Bohol reeled from the impact of tropical depression Urduja, although there were no major disaster-related incidents, save for some heavy rains at some stretches.
On Thursday, the pre-emptive evacuation was considered in disaster-prone areas after the PDRMMO was informed about the red alert status hoisted by the Office of the Civil Defense in Cebu. Damalerio said pre-emptive evacuation is one of the measures taken when there is a red alert status.
Chatto ordered the pre-emptive evacuation especially on previously identified disaster risk areas in the province.
Vinta went pass Bohol with just a whimper, effectively sparing the 1.3 million residents of the island province from a catastrophe.
By Friday afternoon, PAGASA lowered the Tropical Cyclone Warning Signal from number one to zero.
SEA TRIPS CANCELLED
As PAGASA placed Bohol under signal number one, classes in the pre-school and elementary grades were suspended. Along with the hoisting of the storm signal comes the cancellation of some trips.
Commander Edgar Buado of the Philippine Coast Guard told the PPOC members last Thursday said at least 370 passengers were stranded in various ports in the province.
Ocean Jet canceled its entire set of trips on Friday afternoon, but some of the trips resumed after 5 pm when PAGASA lifted the storm signal.
Chatto said the stranded passengers were accommodated by the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA), but the Philippine Red Cross and the Department of Social Welfare and Development teamed up for the provisions of the stranded passengers.
The Coast Guard canceled the trips as a pre-caution against possible sea disasters that may happen as a result of the storm. Several trips from other ports such as in Cebu and Dumaguete to Tagbilaran were also canceled due to the storm.
Southern Leyte, Southern Cebu, Negros Oriental, Southern Negros Occidental, and Siquijor Dinagat Island, Surigao del Norte, Rest of Surigao del Sur, Agusan del Norte, Camiguin, Rest of Davao Oriental, Rest of Davao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat, Basilan,and Bohol were under placed under signal number one by the PAGASA during the height of the pass of the typhoon.
Vinta weakened considerably after it hit land mass in Mindanao causing the PAGASA to lower the storm signals one notch lower by 5 pm on Friday.
However, the storm re-intensified after drawing strength from thewater shortly after midnight on Saturday. By Saturday morning, the state weather bureau said the storm had winds with speeds of 75 kilometers per hour and gustiness of up to 90 kilometers per hour.
Vintais expected to leave the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR) by theevening of Christmas Eve and may be headed to Vietnam.
MASSIVE FLOODING IN DAVAO CITY
With the storm, the northeast monsoon will still be influenced causing much rain in Metro Manila, Cagayan Valley, and the Cordilleras. Also impacted will be the provinces of Aurora and Quezon as the state weather bureau said there would be “no significant impact.”
In Davao City, a total of 6, 614 families or 31, 375 individuals were affected by flood in Davao City when Davao River overflowed to several barangays from Buda down to the city proper.
Davao River started to swell when Tropical Storm Vinta was exiting to Bukidnon and the rest of Northern Mindanao areas. The affected families are temporarily sheltered in 18 evacuation centers – mostly barangay gyms and schools.
Affected families are sheltered in Tamugan Gym, DMMA Buhangin, Buhangin Gym, Maa Elementary School, UM Matina Campus, Lasang Barangay Hall, Brokenshire Gym, Mandug Gym, San Rafael Gym, SIR Phase 2 Gym, Upper Madapo Gym, Bankerohan Gym, Waan Gym, Uyanguren Gym, El Rio Gym, Barangay Bantol Gym, Barangay Dominga in the house of Barangay Captain Lomandas, and Dumalag Elementary School in Lampianao, said City Chief Information Officer Jefry Tupas on Saturday.
As of 9 am, the situation along the Davao River areas and adjacent barangays haveremained in code red due to the critical condition of the river’s water level.
Tupas said the rescue teams had been deployed since 5:30pm Friday in some flooded areas due to theswollen river.
The combined teams from Central 911, police units, Task Force Davao and other private groups were helping in the rescue of trapped families, especially in Tigatto areas.
CASUALTIES IN ZAMBOANGA
In Zamboanga provinces, the government has mobilized its resources to assistthousands of residents displaced by the onslaught of Tropical Storm “Vinta” in several areas of Zamboanga Peninsula.
The Office of Civil Defense (ODC) on Saturday reported that 42 people were killed while 15 others were missing as the storm pounded the provinces of Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur, and Zamboanga Sibugay.
On Friday, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) hoisted storm warning signal number two over 11 Mindanao provinces including the three Zamboanga areas.
The other provinces covered by the storm warning signal are the following: Misamis Occidental; Lanao del Sur; Lanao del Norte; Bukidnon; Misamis Oriental; North Cotabato; Davao del Norte; and, Agusan del Sur.
OCD Regional Director Manuel Luis Ochotorena on Saturday said the hardest hit area was the town of Sibuco in the province of Zamboanga del Norte.
Ochotorena said the Zamboanga del Norte Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Office (PDRRMO) reported that 18 people died after they were swept by rampaging flood that hit Barangay Anongan, Sibuco.
Ochotorena said eight were reported missing while two others were injured.
“Two days before the entry of Tropical Storm Vinta into the country, the residents especially those in the shoreline, were advised to evacuate to a safe area,” Ochotorena said.
“But there were still casualties since there were several residents who did not heed the advice,” he added.(Dave Albarado with reports from PNA)