| Evacuees cram shelters as ‘Mina’ changes course
| Sunday, November 25, 2007
|Thousands of people were pouring into evacuation shelters Saturday as typhoon “Mina” (international codename: Mitag) barreled down on eastern Philippines, officials said.
The head of the weather bureau, Nathaniel Cruz, said on Saturday that Mina had changed course early Saturday and was heading toward the northern provinces of the main island of Luzon, away from the Bicol peninsula where tens of thousands had already been evacuated.
Packing maximum sustained winds of 175 kilometers (109 miles) per hour with gusts of 210 kilometers per hour, the typhoon was 190 kilometers off the Bicol peninsula in Southern Luzon, and moving northwest at 11 kilometers per hour.
Cruz told local radio that on its course at present, Mina is “expected to make landfall” late Sunday, sparing Bicol from its full fury.
The Bicol peninsula bore the brunt of so-called super typhoon “Durian” last year which killed 1,200 persons and left 200,000 others homeless.
Entire villages were wiped out and hundreds of people swept to their deaths in mudslides triggered by Durian, which blew away houses and uprooted trees as it slammed into the Bicol provinces.
Mina “would likely slam into the sparsely populated northern Luzon provinces of Aurora and Isabela late Sunday night before crossing the mountains and out into the South China Sea sometime Monday,” Cruz said.
President Gloria Arroyo also on Saturday met her disaster coordinating committee for an update on the evacuation of residents from areas likely to be affected by the typhoon.
She said the preemptive evacuation of 30,000 families from the Bicol peninsula had been successful and efforts are being concentrated on moving residents from flood and landslide-prone areas in Isabela and Aurora.
Isabela Governor Grace Padaca told President Arroyo by telephone that troops had begun arriving in the province to help relocate 54,000 persons from villages in low-lying coastal areas expected to be in the path of Mina.
National Disaster Coordinating Council head Glenn Rabonza said they had alerted their forces in Aurora and Isabela to prepare. He also told local radio that “selective evacuation” would take place in Isabela throughout Saturday.
Isabela Vice-Governor Ramon Reyes earlier said the provincial government’s preparations focused on at least four towns in the south of the province bordering Aurora, which is now expected to bear the brunt of Mina.
Speaking on local radio, he said mayors in the region “have been alerted and people are now being moved.”
Reyes added that they had evacuated residents near rivers and in low-lying areas, especially near Cagayan River. He said the water in the river quickly rises during storms.
He added that trucks, medicines and relief goods had been put in place. “So far, the roads in Isabela are passable but it will be hard to travel because rains have been heavy in the past three weeks,” Reyes told a local television network.
The military spokesman for southern Luzon, Maj. Randolf Cabangbang, said in a statement that it had suspended its counter-insurgency operations against the communist New People’s Army in Southern Luzon to concentrate on evacuation efforts.
The Philippines is frequently hit by extreme weather with typhoon “Lando” killing 10 persons last week.
|posted by Moderator Londen time 5:08 PM