Cabinet men fan out for ‘Ompong’

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All hands on deckPresident Rodrigo Duterte (second from left) and his Cabinet attend a command conference on typhoon “Ompong” at the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council operations center. Officials have started evacuating thousands of people to be affected as schools were ordered closed and bulldozers for landslides were readied. The top officials were ordered deployed to assist provinces in the path of the most powerful typhoon this year.

President Rodrigo Duterte deployed last night Cabinet members in the provinces that will be directly hit by super typhoon “Ompong.”

Secretaries Silvestre Bello of the Department of Labor and Employment, Arthur Tugade of the Department of Transportation, Manny Piñol of the Department of Agriculture, Roy Cimatu of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Presidential Adviser on Political Affairs Francis Tolentino and National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) Executive Director Ricardo Jalad were sent to the provinces in Cordillera and Regions I, II and III to ensure quick access to government assistance once the typhoon hits.

“This will assure that government readiness will be at its highest level.

I cannot be anywhere and everywhere, plus these gentlemen are from those provinces so they’ll know better on how to manage things from the ground,” Mr. Duterte told reporters after leading the Command Conference at Camp Aguinaldo.

“I have been briefed. The nitty-gritty was discussed. Every typhoon is a crisis and, so far, I’m satisfied with the preparations of the agencies,” the President added.

He said Piñol will be scouring Mindanao for sources of vegetables since supply in typhoon-hit areas will be greatly affected.

Communications vital

The Chief Executive also tagged as high priority the “centrality of communication” among him, his officials, the military and police.

“Anything that can go wrong will go wrong, those that we don’t expect to happen will happen,” Mr. Duterte said.

“We have to be prepared, especially if we need to communicate with the military for rescue and other things. Don’t depend too much on your cellular phones because if the telcos’ systems bog down, then there’s nothing we can do anymore,” he added.

Duterte also appointed Tolentino as a conduit for him and the first respondent should he see the need to personally visit affected areas in the wake of the typhoon.

The Department of Interior and Local Government had activated its reporting system to closely monitor localities, particularly those that might need to have preemptive evacuations.

Reliefs ready

The Department of Social Welfare and Development has already pre-positioned P1.7-billion worth of food packs while the Department of Health has deployed medical teams with medicines and other medical supplies ready to be distributed.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) has made sure that air and land assets are ready to respond to any emergency.

According to Roque, quick response teams of various government agencies have been deployed in areas to be hit by the typhoon.

Typhoon “Ompong,” which may develop into a super typhoon, is packing maximum sustained winds of up to 205 kilometers per hour (kph) near the center and gustiness of up to 255 kph, and is moving west at 20 kph.

The typhoon is expected to bring heavy to intense rains, strong winds, rough seas and storm surges in coastal areas in Northern Luzon beginning today.

“Ompong” is forecast to make landfall in northern Cagayan tomorrow morning and is expected to exit the Philippine area of responsibility on Monday.

Tracking ‘Ompong’ A member of the Philippine Air Force stands in front of a satellite image of the strongest typhoon to hit the country this year at the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council building. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said it expects substantial damage to the path of “Ompong.” AP

10M in typhoon’s path

The typhoon, which has already blasted through the Northern Mariana Islands and Guam, is speeding across the Pacific with winds that can gust as high as 255 kilometers (160 miles) per hour.

Some 10 million people in the country are in Ompong’s path.

Thousands began evacuating in seaside areas of the northern tip of Luzon.

“The pre-emptive evacuation is going on in our coastal municipalities, the villages that are prone to storm surge,” local government spokesman Rogelio Sending said. “We are going to evacuate more.”

Flooding, landslides and wind damage from the coming storm were top concerns as authorities prepared equipment for rescue and relief operations.

Schools were shuttered and some farmers took to their fields to start early harvest of corn and rice that could be ruined by flooding.

An average of 20 typhoons and storms lash the Philippines each year, killing hundreds of people and leaving millions in near-perpetual poverty.

At par with Yolanda

The country’s deadliest on record is super typhoon “Yolanda” which left more than 7,350 people dead or missing across the Visayas region in November 2013.

The typhoon is expected to boost the intensity of seasonal monsoon rains that have already caused widespread flooding in Central Luzon.

Poor communities reliant on fishing are some of the most vulnerable to fierce typhoon winds and the storm surge that pounds the coast.

“It will bring destruction. They are the ones greatly affected. Even moderate winds can topple their houses,” regional civil defense official Dante Balao said.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said it expects “substantial damage” to the path of “Ompong.”

Surges warned

Storm surges of up to seven meters (23 feet) are expected to hit coastal areas, it said, while heavy rains could trigger landslides and flash floods.

The Civil Defense office said towns and cities on “Ompong’s” path are preparing government buildings as evacuation centers, stockpiling food and other emergency rations.

“We’re worried for the 10 million people in the Philippines living in the path of this destructive storm,” said Richard Gordon, chairman of the Philippine Red Cross.

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