Typhoon Ma-on has triggered flooding at Cebu city in the Philippines. (Photo: Cebu Archdiocese)
A strong tropical storm has made landfall in the northern Philippines, forcing thousands to flee their homes for safety and prompting the authorities to suspend classes in education institutes.
Typhoon Ma-on, locally known as ‘Florita’ hit Isabela province in the Luzon region on Aug. 23, triggering strong winds, tidal surges, and flooding, said the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration.
The severe storm had maximum sustained winds from 95—110 kilometers per hour as it hit the land and its gustiness increased from 115—150 kilometers per hour.
The authorities have evacuated thousands of families as flooding coupled with strong winds inundated vast areas as the storm moved northwest.
At least 560 families in Tuguegarao province in Cagayan and Isabela provinces were evacuated to government schools and basketball courts without food and water, according to Philippine National Police.
Families living in low-lying areas of Isabela province were forced to leave their livestock and plantations due to the threat of landslides caused by gushing water from surrounding mountains.
“Even if it was against their will, villagers in low-lying areas in Isabela’s coastal town needed to be transferred because of the danger of being buried alive by mud. There is a threat of flood and landslides,” Cagayan’s provincial information officer Rogelio Sending, Jr. told reporters on Aug. 23.
Government officials in Cagayan and Isabela provinces have begun distributing relief packs to the evacuees although the supply of food and water was presently insufficient.
“Relief packs were distributed to the evacuees, but we must admit that they are not enough. There is difficulty in transporting goods to evacuation centers because of flooded streets and roads blocked by landslides,” said Constante Foronda, provincial disaster risk-reduction management officer.
Foronda has also appealed to the Catholic Church’s social arm, Caritas, for providing potable water and rice to the typhoon victims.
“We are appealing to Catholic Church’s groups like Caritas to please help us because we cannot do this alone. If our evacuees will remain in the evacuation sites for days, we are afraid that we will not have enough food to feed them. For now, we need pillows and blankets, especially for children,” Foronda added.
President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. has suspended classes in public schools and work in government offices in Metro Manila and several provinces due to the storm.
“The President has declared a suspension of work and classes in all levels today until tomorrow, for all government offices and public schools in NCR [National Capital Region], Cavite, Lagina, Rizal, Bulacan, Zambales and Bataan, due to Severe Tropical Storm Florita,” the Office of the Press Secretary announced.
Father Ranhilio Aquino, a priest based in Tuguegarao province, has called on parishioners living in flood-prone areas to move to “safer” locations.
“It [Typhoon Ma-on] will traverse the main body of the Province of Cagayan. This can only mean that winds will intensify as well as rains. My fellow Tuguegaraoenos in flood-prone areas like Linao and the Western Barangays, please consider moving to safer locations,” Father Aquino said on Facebook.
The priest also said that their province’s state university has opened its gates to typhoon victims.
“President Urdujah Alvarado is offering the gymnasium of the Andrews Campus of the Cagayan State University as a temporary refuge for those adversely affected by floodwaters or those whose homes are wrecked by the storm,” Fr. Aquino added.
The Philippines, an archipelago nation located in the western Pacific Ocean, is prone to frequent natural disasters like cyclonic storms and flooding.
Typhoon Ma-on is the sixth tropical cyclonic storm to hit the country this year, the Philippine Star newspaper reported.