The strongest typhoon to hit Metro Manila directly in 11 years brought down trees and billboards, caused flash floods and landslides, closed offices and the financial markets, and caused a Luzon-wide power outage on Thursday.
Typhoon “Milenyo” with an international name: Xangsane, brought Metro Manila to a near-standstill with all flights and sea travel in and out of the region canceled. It also forced officials to suspend operations of two commuter train systems.
At least 18 persons were reported dead in the cities of Muntinlupa (2), Makati (1) and Legazpi (1), and the provinces of Albay (8), Quezon (3) and Antique (3) in the wake of the typhoon.
Eleven were confirmed dead in the five-province Calabarzon area south and east of Manila, including four children in Taytay town in Rizal province.
AT A GLANCE
• Classes in all levels still suspended in Metro Manila this Friday
• All government offices still closed in Metro Manila this Friday
• At least 18 persons dead
• Luzon-wide blackout
• Thousands of trees felled
• Billboards and lampposts torn down
• Trucks and cars overturned
• Flooding and landslides
• Thousands stranded
• Flights and sea travel canceled
• Overhead trains systems LRT and MRT stopped
• Trading on stock and currency markets suspended
Worst hit provinces
Among the worst hit provinces was Albay in the Bicol region, disaster coordination officials said. It had no water supply, electricity and landline communication link.
Albay and five other provinces in Bicol had been without electricity since Wednesday night as high winds toppled power lines.
“It’s like waking up from a nightmare,” Arnel Capili, Office of Civil Defense chief for the Bicol region, told a radio station. “The first thing is to clear the national highway leading to Manila.”
In Camarines Sur province, Gov. Luis Ray Villafuerte placed the initial damage to schools, roads, bridges and other infrastructure at P200 million. He said that 85 percent of the crops in the province were damaged.
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was trapped by Milenyo at the Clark Special Economic Zone in Pampanga province, north of Manila. She tried to return to Manila in the midst of the storm to preside over a meeting of the National Disaster Coordinating Council, but was forced to turn back, government-run radio said.
Classes are still suspended in all levels in Metro Manila this Friay. Education Secretary Jesli Lapus said Thursday that classes remained suspended to give time for local governments to clear roads of debris.
Lapus said classes might resume this Friday in the provinces of Rizal, Laguna, Batangas, Cavite and Bulacan.
Milenyo on Thursday weakened into a storm with winds of 110 kilometers per hour but picked up speed by 17 to 19 kph when it smashed through Metro Manila capital at around 10 a.m. It was packing maximum winds of 130 kph and gusts of up to 160 kph when it made landfall in Northern Samar province on Wednesday morning.
Forecasters said Milenyo would likely strengthen back to a typhoon when it hit the South China Sea. The storm is headed westward and is expected to reach Vietnam late on Sunday.
“The worst is over for Metro Manila,” weather bureau chief Nathaniel Cruz said. “You cannot expect a 180-degree turn immediately, of course. It will continue to rain for the next several days but we have improving weather,” he said.
Milenyo was headed for Bataan and Zambales as of 4 p.m. yesterday, its center spotted 100 km south of Metro Manila. It had slightly weakened.
Eye of storm
Calm settled in the southern part of Metro Manila just before noon Thursday when the typhoon’s eye passed over it, allowing residents to quickly repair loosened metal sheet roofing, cut down trees blocking roads, and talk with neighbors.
Less than an hour later, the fierce winds and driving rains were back. Metro Manila’s streets were empty as most of its 12 million residents took shelter from flying debris. “It sounded like a train passed on the roof,” said one occupant of a fourth-floor apartment. “Then the roof in one of our rooms was gone. I can now see the sky.”
Taxis were reluctant to take to the road. “It’s too dangerous,” said Armando Legaspi, a cab driver. Between Alabang town and the Bicutan interchange on the South Luzon Expressway, some 25 billboards lay toppled. A giant billboard blocked the west side of the service road just before Bicutan.
Hundreds of motorists were stranded along the Old National Highway in Sta. Rosa, Calamba and Biñan in Laguna amid waist-deep floods. Toll collection on the South Luzon Expressway, which was littered by fallen trees, was suspended for two days until this Friday.
The hotline and Web server of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) bogged down Thursday because of the power outage.
The hotline 433-ULAN, which the public can access to check on the weather, could not be updated due to the power failure. Even the technical person in charge of the hotline system failed to make it to work because he was stranded in Pasig City. Pagasa hoisted Signal No. 3 in Bataan province and the southern part of neighboring Zambales.
The signal in Metro Manila was lowered from Signal No. 3 at 11 a.m. to Signal No. 2 at 4 p.m. Other areas placed under Signal No. 2 were the rest of Zambales, Tarlac, Pampanga, Bulacan, Cavite and Lubao Island. Signal No. 1 was raised over Pangasinan, Nueva Ecija, southern Aurora, northern Quezon, Rizal, Laguna, Batangas and Mindoro.
In Antique province on Panay Island, in the central Philippines, three persons were killed, including a drunk man who fell into a river, a 9-year-old boy and an electrician, said acting governor Eduardo Fortaleza.
Lealyn Danez, 15, resident of Villa San Pablo Subdivision in Lucena City in Quezon province, southeast of Manila, died after she was hit by a falling tree.
In Quezon province, three persons died. Four were missing in San Francisco town and six fishing boats were missing in the town Perez area, , Police Senior Supt. Victorio Caragan Jr. said.
In Albay, Cedric Daep, Provincial Disaster Coordinating Council chair, said at least eight persons were reported dead in four towns.
One of them was Ricky Chua, 35. “I tried to save him but there was nothing I could do,” Levy Base, 34, said of his neighbor in the coastal area of Baybay in Legazpi City. Base sustained wounds from trying to save Chua.
“We were trying to lift the concrete wall that fell on him but other materials, which I didn’t see, kept on hitting my body,” he said.
Romy Romero, council member of Baybay, said other villagers told him that Chua had evacuated to a safer place but went back to get some of his things.
Chua, whose body has yet to be found, was among at least 12 reported dead in southern Luzon due to Milenyo. In Arteche town in Eastern Samar province, the authorities reported 44 houses destroyed and 56 damaged. There were no reports of casualties. In Muntinlupa City in Metro Manila, a girl and an elderly man were crushed to death when the wall of an adjacent abandoned warehouse collapsed on their houses, officials said.
In the Makati business district, the steel frame of a billboard fell on a bus, a van and a taxi, killing the van driver and injuring the driver of the taxi, police said. In Calamba City, three factories (Samsung Electronics, Shinsei Electronics and PL Technologies) in Barangay Batino collapsed at around 11 a.m., injuring 50 employees.
Ship passengers stranded
The Office of Civil Defense reported that as of 8 a.m. Thursday there were 3,029 ship passengers stranded in the Bicol region.
Matnog town had 2,130 stranded passengers; Pilar, 376; Tabaco City, 358; Masbate, 61; Bulan, 48; Pioduran, 22; Pasacao, Camarines Sur, 21; Sabang, Camarines Sur, 10 and Virac, 3.
At the Batangas port south of Manila, stranded were at least 350 passengers bound for the provinces of Aklan, Iloilo, Mindoro and Romblon in the central Philippines. The Camarines Norte national highway, roads in Camarines Sur and the road from Legazpi City to Sorsogon were passable as of 3 p.m. Thursday.
However, the road out of Bulan, Sorsogon, was not passable due to fallen trees, electric posts and scattered roofing materials.
In Albay, the Maharlika Highway in the second and third districts was passable to light vehicles only. The road in Barangay Padang in Legazpi was not passable because it was blocked by boulders and old volcanic debris from Mayon volcano.
The circumferential road from Virac to Pandan in Catanduanes was hardly passable. It was under construction when damaged by the storm. A minor rock slide blocked a section of the Panabananon road and a minor landslide hit a section in Barihay in Catanduanes.
A total of 833 people were evacuated to eight centers in Calabanga, Camarines Sur. Thirty-six families were evacuated in Pamplona, 50 in Gainza and five in Libmanan. The Provincial Disaster Coordinating Council said 20 families from the coastal village of Sala in Balete, Batangas, were evacuated to Balete Church.
Initial reports from the Philippine National Red Cross said that 45 families were evacuated in Lipa City, 38 in Tanauan City and 11 in San Juan town. Highway operator Star Tollway Corp. said billboards and fences had tilted toward the road in Santo Tomas.
Water overflowed on the Santiago Bridge and portions of Kilometer 64 to Kilometer 61 in Sambat, Tanauan, were flooded. But no vehicular accidents were reported, Star Tollway said.
Many houses were rendered roofless, electricity was cut off and floods threatened the towns of Siniloan, Mabitac, Famy, Sta. Maria and other parts of eastern Laguna.
Manila airport closed
Debris -- from pieces of galvanized iron sheets, tree branches, leaves and even migratory birds -- as well as poor visibility forced the five-hour closure of the two runways of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) at the height of Milenyo.
It was the first time in 15 years that the country’s premier international airport was closed. In 1991, the Naia was closed for 10 days because of the ash fall brought about by the Mt. Pinatubo eruption.
On Thursday, the Manila International Airport Authority closed the runways to all aircraft at 10:15 a.m. and reopened them at 3 p.m.
The closure affected numerous arriving and departing flights, and stranded hundreds of passengers at the Naia 1, the Centennial Terminal and the Manila Domestic Airport.
Milenyo’s strong winds destroyed portions of warehouses belonging to ground-handling companies and tore off galvanized roofing sheets of buildings as well as billboard tarpaulins surrounding the airport. A canopy at one of the airport security checkpoints ended up as a pile of twisted metal. Several trees were uprooted, some of which fell on two vehicles parked at the Centennial Terminal.
The wind also broke a six-glass panel at Gate 17 at the pre-boarding area at Naia 1, knocked down a steel panel at Gate 10, and tore off portions of the gypsum board ceilings at the two gates that were right beside each other. The Miaa medical office reported that six airline and airport employees sustained cuts and bruises after being hit by flying debris. It was hot and dimly lit at Naia 1 as its power generators could not provide sufficient electricity to the entire airport facility.
13th to hit
Milenyo was the 13th typhoon to hit the Philippines this year, disaster officials said. Tropical storms regularly hit the archipelago. In the worst disaster in recent years, more than 5,000 people died in central Leyte Island in 1991 in floods triggered by a typhoon.
In 2004, about 1,800 people were killed or went missing in a series of storms. The toll included 480 who were killed when mudslides hit three towns in Quezon. In November 1995, the 260-kph super typhoon “Rosing” battered Metro Manila after slicing through central provinces, leaving 936 people dead.
From: Philippine Daily Inquirer