Storm warnings raised as tropical depression approaches; passengers stranded in Samar

Posted on June 29, 2013

STORM warnings have been raised as tropical depression “Gorio” speeds up its approach towards the center of the country, the weather bureau reported on Friday afternoon.

As a result, ferry passengers in Samar are stranded as authorities closed a major port in anticipation of bad weather.

According to a bulletin posted 5 p.m. by the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), public storm warning signal no. 1 has been hoisted over the Samar and Leyte provinces, and Biliran Island, the provinces of the Bicol Region -- Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Cantanduanes, Albay, Sorsogon -- as well as Polilio Island and Masbate.

The same warning has been posted over Dinagat Island and Siargao in Mindanao.

Now moving west northwest at 19 kph with winds pegged at 30-60 kilometers per hour (kph), Gorio is expected to moves towards Eastern Visayas. It was seen at 290 kilometers (km) east of Surigao City in Surigao Del Norte, Mindanao at 4 p.m. on Friday.

Residents in low-lying and mountainous areas under storm signals are being cautioned about possible flash floods and landslides as Gorio is carrying moderate to heavy rainfall at 5-15 millimeters per hour.

Gorio -- with maximum winds of 55 kph near its center -- is predicted to be 60 km southeast of the Catarman municipality in Northern Samar by Saturday afternoon.

It is forecast to be 40 km northeast of Infanta, Quezon province by Sunday afternoon, cross northern Luzon and exit the Ilocos by Monday afternoon.

In a separate bulletin on Friday morning, Undersecretary Eduardo D. Del Rosario, also the executive director of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, ordered concerned local disaster units to “undertake precautionary measures” and to spread information on the storm via local officials and the media.

Meanwhile, more than 400 passengers were stranded in Allen Port in Northern Samar after the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) cancelled sea travel Friday morning due to tropical depression Gorio.

Petty Officer 1 Norberto J. Montuya, PCG detachment commander in Allen, said they cancelled trips as early as 5 a.m. yesterday.

“As of noontime, 441 passengers are in Allen port on board eight passenger buses, 41 trucks, and 15 light cars heading to Luzon,” Mr. Montuya said in a mobile phone interview yesterday afternoon.

Allen is the exit point for land travelers from Mindanao and Eastern Visayas. Regular trips of roll-on roll-off vessels connect Samar to Sorsogon.

The official said the sea was not very rough in Northern Samar but they had to be proactive to prevent accidents.

“We will not allow ferry boats to leave Allen port as long as the province is still under a storm signal. We have to wait for advice from PAGASA,” Mr. Montuya told BusinessWorld.

Fishermen in three Samar provinces were also advised not to venture out to sea.

The Office of the Civil Defense (OCD) in Eastern Visayas called on local government units on Samar Island to brace for the impact of the weather disturbance.

OCD Regional Director Rey M. Gozon said he has reminded governors and mayors to convene their respective local disaster risk reduction and management councils (LDRRMCs) to map rescue efforts and declare early cancellation of classes.

“Weather bulletins have been sent to local government units regularly since yesterday to ensure that they are aware of current forecasts. They have to carry out preemptive evacuation for those living along the coast and low lying areas if necessary,” Mr. Gozon said in a telephone interview.

Gorio is the seventh tropical storm to enter the country this year. Gorio is seen to enhance the southwest monsoon, which will bring moderate to occasionally heavy rains and thunderstorms over Visayas and Mindanao. -- Monica Joy Cantilero and Sarwell Q. Meniano