Boat trips, classes cancelled in Luzon, Visayas areas as PHL braces for Ompong

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FULL ALERT status has been activated by various government agencies as typhoon Ompong (international name: Mangkhut) entered the Philippine area Wednesday afternoon.

The typhoon, the 15th to hit the country this year and forecasted to be the strongest so far, is expected to bring heavy rains on Thursday before it makes landfall early Saturday.

Officials of the state weather bureau — Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) — said in a livestreamed press conference on Sept. 12 that the typhoon is seen to reach a peak intensity of 220 to 270 kilometers per hour (kph).

Ompong’s track threatens Metro Manila and most parts of northern Luzon, including the provinces of Bulacan, Tarlac, Nueva Ecija, and Zambales.

It could be felt strongest in the provinces of Cagayan and Batanes with an intensity of 205 to 255 kph.

Based on its 4 p.m. update, PAGASA said parts of the Bicol Region such as Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte, Albay, and Sorsogon were already experiencing heavy rains with lightning and strong winds.

Undersecretary Ricardo B. Jalad, National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) executive director, said in a press briefing that the government is prepared for the onslaught of Ompong.

Mr. Jalad said local government units (LGUs) have been notified to start preparations as early as Sunday, including the deployment of volunteers.

Mr. Jalad also said that NDRRMC’s regional offices have already crafted their respective contingency plans over the weekend.

At the same time, he assured that Ompong will be less strong than 2013’s super typhoon Yolanda, which battered most parts of the Eastern Visayas Region and caused damages in the rest of the Visayan islands.

Nonetheless, Mr. Jalad urged LGUs and the public to be proactive and fully prepared as some areas might experience landslides and flooding due to storm surges.

Kailangan mabilis mag-isip ‘yung mga (They have to think fast, the) local chief executives,” he said, particularly in terms of evacuation so that agencies can immediately extend assistance.

Various LGUs in Luzon have already declared suspension of classes beginning today, Sept. 13. These include the provinces of Cagayan, Ilocos Sur, and Ilocos Norte; and Dagupan City in Pangasinan; Mexico and Bacolor in Pampanga; and Bauang and Caba in La Union.

The University of the Philippines, which is scheduled to have the nationwide entrance exams on Sept. 15-16, has also declared a postponement.

In Cebu, boat trips to neighboring Bohol and Dapitan City in Zamboanga del Norte were cancelled starting Wednesday afternoon following advisories from the Maritime Industry Authority and the Philippine Coast Guard with rough seas expected from the storm. — with reports from Vince Angelo C. Ferreras and The Freeman