Lando Came Too Soon

Lando definitely caught everyone by surprise yesterday. The ‘tropical depression’, which was expected to hit land after sunset came two to three hours early, trapping everyone at work and in school.

At the office, people ran to the windows to see the winds ravage scaffoldings, tarp ads, tree branches and roofs. My friends said that some wood and scaffoldings fell from the crown regency tower and tree branches littered the streets of cebu. Billboards were torn apart and the jollibee tower signage swayed.

Thousands of cebuanos were stranded when they got out of the office at 5PM. The streets were dirty and the lights were out. Watching throngs of people walking silently in the rain in the midst of broken tree branches was just creepy.

Storm hit Cebu 2-3 hours early

CEBUANOS were taken by surprise by tropical storm Lando yesterday, as it hit Cebu earlier than announced by the weather bureau.Winds picked up speed and lashed trees, billboards, posts across the province. The incessant rains also kept pace, flooding parts of Cebu City and Mandaue City.A fallen tree at Fuente Osmeña clogged up traffic. Commuters were caught in jams for hours since late afternoon in major city streets.

Office workers and students were left standing on the streets waiting for public transportation, as there was no advice to suspend work or classes.

Power was cut off at the height of the storm. About 6 p.m. electricity was restored in the major lines of the Visayan Electric Co.

The Coast Guard barred all vessels weighing 2,000 gross tonnage and below from leaving port effective 4 p.m. At Pier 3 alone, 10 vessels bound for Hilongos and Bato, Leyte and Tubigon, Bohol were kept anchored, stranding hundreds of passengers, said Cebu Coast Guard Petty Officer Omar Gonzales.

The Office of Civil Defense and the Provincial Disaster Coordinating Council are ready to respond to any call for assistance from the towns and cities.

But officials blamed the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services for the lack of warning. (See related story)

The Cebu City Government told barangay chiefs to monitor danger zones in their respective areas

Specifically, the barangays traversed by the Guadalupe River were told to keep an eye on constituents living on the riverbanks.

Vice Mayor Michael Rama meet with city councilors at 5 p.m. yesterday and agreed that they hold a special session this morning for the declaration of calamity.

The council needs to place the city under a state of calamity for calamity funds to be released.

At least four persons, including a Barangay Luz couple pinned under the roof of their house damaged by a fallen billboard, were reported injured.

City Councilor and Action Officer Gerardo Carillo said the Guadalupe River rose so that City Disaster Coordinating Council (CDCC) personnel were tasked to keep a constant watch.

CDCC officials were present during Rama’s meeting with the councilors.

Those living on landslide-prone areas, however, were the ones especially warned.

What is more dangerous, Alvin Santillana of the CDCC said, is the water-clogged soil that could cause the earth to loosen and slide.

A mother in her 40s was “buried alive” and injured in Sitio Rio, Barangay Lahug after a landslide destroyed her home around 5 p.m. yesterday.

Carillo said Mergen Figueroa suffered minor injuries, while her two children escaped unhurt.

Barangay Captain Mary Ann de los Santos went to the sitio to inspect what happened.

She said a clump of bamboos eroded and caused a riprap to collapse. This resulted in Figueroa’s house crumbling. Figueroa got carried away by the river.

Two children were also injured, but de los Santos could not confirm this because the area was dark.

De los Santos reported that strong winds felled trees, which blocked roads in Lahug.

The same was noted in several other places in the city and in the province.

Most of the billboards along UN Ave. in Mandaue were shredded and a portion of one fell on a Transco transmission line, which cut off power, said Mandaue City Vice Mayor Carlo Fortuna.

In Butuanon River in Mandaue, Albert Lumbab of Acert said that one house was swept away by the high waters.

One billboard hurt Marianito Nortisa, 43, and his wife Evelyn, 48, in Barangay Luz, Cebu City after it tumbled and fell on their house.

Marianito suffered a gash on the left portion of the forehead, while Evelyn, who had a cut on her right leg, bad difficulty breathing.

City Councilor Sylvan Jakosalem criticized the lack of advice from Pag-asa.

“Why didn’t Pagasa warn us ahead, and they could have recommended classes to be suspended? So many students were stranded. This was a total failure of weather forecasting,” he said.

He said he talked with Cebu City Schools Division Superintendent Lorna Rances and was told that there was no advice from the Pag-asa for the Department of Education to suspend classes.

Rances also told him that the decision to cancel classes was left to school principals, which Jako-salem did not agree with.

“It has to be a centralized decision. The principals are not weather forecasters,” he said.

In a separate interview, City Councilor Augustus Pe Jr. said at least 10 Kaohsiung buses were deployed last night to help those left stranded by the storm.

City Councilor Rodrigo Abellanosa, committee on social services chairman, said several residents were already evacuated in Barangays Basak Pardo and Duljo-Fatima after the Guadalupe River threatened their homes.

He expected more barangays to report the evacuation of constituents in barangay halls and sports complexes, and assured that the City Hall took care of them.

The Cebu City Police Office (CCPO) medical team was placed on call to assist rescuers.

CCPO Director Patro-cinio Comendador said communications equipment and first-aid kits were given to members of the medical team, mostly composed of policemen with medical-related degrees.

The storm hit Cebu past 4 p.m., catching almost everyone by surprise.

Traffic was heavy in the main thoroughfares, particularly on Escario St. and Osmeña Blvd. and portions of Cebu City, Mandaue City, and Consolacion town.
The areas, serviced by the Visayan Electric Co.(Veco), were in darkness.

Ethel Natera, Veco spokesperson, said that as of 7 p.m., at least 23 percent of their franchise area did not have power.

Veco personnel worked the whole night to fix problems, which include uprooted trees and fallen billboards.

In particular, Veco’s 69-kilovolt high-tension wire at the Cebu Business Park near the Ayala Mall was damaged by a billboard.

Vice Mayor Michael Rama, who called an emergency meeting, blamed the Pag-asa for the collapse of the giant Christmas tree at the Fuente Osmeña oval. He said that had the weather agency warned City Hall hours earlier, braces would have been installed to support the structure.

Heavy equipment that the City rented to clear debris left by past soil erosions in Barangays Sapangdaku and Pamutan were put on standby to respond to landslides such as that in Lahug.

Carillo said disaster councils in each barangay were placed on alert.

 

Hold tight CEBU, for if it doesn’t change its course, Cyclone Minya is expected to hit Cebu by weekend.