LEGAZPI CITY, Philippines – The Philippine Coast Guard has suspended civilian maritime operations in various ports in the Bicol region, stranding at least 603 passengers as tropical depression “Ëgay” entered the country’s area of responsibility.
Nelson Torre of PCG command in Bicol said the suspension took effect after the weather bureau hoisted Signal No. 1 one in Bicol on Saturday.
PCG reported that as of 11 a.m. Saturday, the suspension stranded 603 passengers, 31 trucks, four cars, 10 buses, 13 sea vessels, and 13 motor bancas at the ports of Tabaco in Albay; Bulan, Pilar in Sorsogon; Masbate; Pasacao, Sabang, Sangay in Camarines Sur; and Virac and San Andres in Catanduanes.
Affected by the suspension of maritime operations were 250 passengers at the port of Pilar, 110 in Tabaco; 95 in Camarines Sur; 85 in Bulan; 57 in Masbate; and 6 in Legazpi.
The Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration said Egay has accelerated as it continued on its northwestward direction and threatened the eastern section of Luzon.
Egay was spotted 150 kilometers east of Virac, Catanduanes, with maximum winds of 55 kilometers per hour near the center, moving northwest at 20 kph.
Signal No. 1 (45-60kph winds) was hoisted over Catanduanes, Sorsogon, Albay Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte. These areas will be experiencing rains with gusty winds and the coastal waters will be moderate to rough, Pagasa said.
The Albay Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, in an advisory Saturday, directed all local disaster authorities to strictly enforce the no-sailing-out-to-sea order among small passenger vessels and fishing boats.
It also warned villagers near riverbanks not to cross flood waters and swelling rivers, while residents living in mountains slopes were advised to take precautionary measures against possible landslides.
Local disaster councils were also placed on high alert.
Albay Governor Joey Salceda said local disaster councils were also placed on 24-hours alert status to help achieve the province’s zero-casualty goal.
In Camarines Norte, the municipal disaster coordinating councils have been activated in preparation for tropical depression “Egay.”
“We are convening the MDCC for information dissemination on safety precautions and preparation for possible evacuation,” said Mayor Ricarte Padilla of Jose Panganiban town.
Padilla said the municipal government has mobilized the local police to help in evacuating residents of low-lying areas.
In Paracale town, Mayor Romero Moreno said they had asked fishers not to go out to sea because of the inclement weather.
“We have warned townsfolk, including those residing in coastal areas, of the approaching bad weather and asked them to prepare for possible evacuation,” said Romero.
In Capalonga town, Mayor Senandro Jalgalado said he had alerted municipal officials.
“We have been monitoring the weather condition since early morning,” he said.
Disaster preparedness and response officials were asked to report even on a Saturday and municipal vehicles were put on stand-by status in case they would be needed, said Jalgalado.
He said the Philippine Coast Guard had no outpost in their town so the municipal government took the task of warning fishers.
In Labo, Mayor Dindo Villafuerte Pardo said the municipal government had asked all village officials to take the necessary preparations.
Labo is a landlocked town but is prone to flash floods especially when Labo River, which winds through the largest town of the province, overflows.
Camarines Norte was hit by flash floods in 2008. It was also devastated in 1995 by Super Typhoon ‘Rosing’ (international codename: Angela). The latest storm that brought damage to the province was Typhoon ‘Basyang’ (international codename: Conson) in 2010.