By Ellalyn De Vera-Ruiz
Typhoon “Rosita” battered Northern Luzon on Tuesday after devastating the US Pacific islands, bringing strong winds, cutting communication lines, and stranding thousands of passengers.
Rosita comes just six weeks after super-typhoon “Ompong” dumped massive rains on Luzon, triggering landslides that killed more than 70 people. Thousands of people were preemptively evacuated on Monday.
The typhoon (international name: Yutu) is the 18th typhoon to hit the country this year. It packed 140 kilometers per hour (kph) sustained winds and gusts of up to 230 kph when it made landfall in Dinapigue, Isabela, around 4 a.m. Tuesday.
After crossing the rugged terrains of Northern Luzon, Rosita left landmass via La Union and was over the West Philippine Sea as of press time Tuesday.
Prior to landfall, Rosita had maximum sustained winds of 150 kph and gusts of up to 185 kph.
Signal No. 3 remains hoisted over Pangasinan and La Union shortly before Tuesday evening.
Meanwhile, areas still under Signal No. 2 were Abra, Ilocos Sur, Benguet, Mountain Province, Nueva Vizcaya, Nueva Ecija, Tarlac, and Zambales.
Ilocos Norte, Apayao, Kalinga, Cagayan, Isabela, Quirino, Aurora, Bulacan, Pampanga, Bataan, Metro Manila, Rizal, Cavite, Laguna, and Batangas were placed under Signal No. 1.
Should it maintain its current west-northwest movement at 25 kph, Rosita will be outside the Philippine area of responsibility Wednesday afternoon. As of Tuesday afternoon, it was already 195 kilometers northwest of Dagupan City, Pangasinan.
Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) weather specialist Aldczar Aurelio said stormy weather will prevail over areas under Signal Nos. 3 and 2, therefore travel by land remains risky.
Moderate to heavy rains directly associated with the typhoon will persist across Northern and Central Luzon.
Aurelio advised residents in these areas, especially those living near river channels, and in low-lying and mountainous areas, to take appropriate actions against possible flooding and landslides.
PAGASA also advised those living in coastal communities to be alert against storm surges that may reach 3 meters over the coastal areas of Ilocos Sur, Ilocos Norte, La Union and Pangasinan.
Likewise, fisherfolk and those with small seacraft were asked not to set sail into the sea where storm warnings have been raised, and over the eastern and western seaboards of Southern Luzon.
Aurelio said the weather condition in Northern and Central Luzon will gradually improve on Wednesday, apart from isolated rains and thunderstorms, particularly in the afternoon or evening.
There were no immediate reports of casualties and damage.
Lorelai Plaza Lastica, a resident of Isabela, the province where Rosita made landfall, said power was down and she could see debris scattered on roads, but no major damage.
“It was scary since it was so strong past midnight,” she said by phone.
Over 2,000 stranded
The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) reported that Rosita left over 2,000 stranded passengers in some ports in Luzon and Visayas.
A total of 2,267 passengers were monitored stranded in ports in Batangas, Romblon, Southern Quezon, Northern Quezon, Aklan, Capiz, Camarines Sur, and Cagayan as of Tuesday noon.
Majority of the passengers stopped from travelling were in Verde Island Port in Batangas where more than 1, 900 passengers were stranded and 128 rolling cargoes prevented from sailing.
A total of 139 rolling cargoes and 15 vessels were prevented to sail from those places since Tuesday noon, the Coast Guard said.
Roads in Region 2
Meanwhile, majority of national roads in Region 2 that were affected by Rosita have been cleared off obstruction and became passable starting Tuesday noon, according to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
All national roads and bridges were safe and passable to all types of vehicles in the islands of Batan, Sabtang and Itbayat in Batanes starting noon Tuesday.
All road sections within the first district of Cagayan wee open to all types of vehicle except Abusag overflow Bridge along Baybayog-San Jose-Baggao-Dalin-Sta. Margarita Road which was closed to traffic due to high elevation of Abusag River.
National, secondary, and tertiary roads in the second and third districts of the province were declared safe for travel.
Further, all roads and bridges in Isabela were already cleared with debris and passable to all types of vehicles. However, in the fourth district of the province, many electrical post were about to fall due to the impact of the typhoon. Linemen of Isabela Electric were already positioned to fix the problem.
The government is ready to implement smooth disaster response and relief following the onslaught Rosita.
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said concerned government agencies have been placed on standby 24/7 to extend assistance to communities affected by the latest storm.
“The President is closely monitoring the areas likely to be hit by typhoon Rosita,” Panelo said in a statement.
“The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) Operation Center is now on red alert. Concerned disaster-related agencies are now on standby 24/7,” he said.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has readied stockpiles and standby funds amounting to P1.3 billion as of October 29, Panelo added. (With reports from Reuters, Genalyn D. Kabiling, and Betheena Unite)