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‘Agaton’ swirls over Visayas, adds toll in its track

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TWO people were killed and thousands fled strong winds and floods as Tropical Depression “Agaton” hit the central Philippines on Tuesday, following deadly back-to-back storms during the Christmas season.

The deaths were reported on Cebu island, where an elderly woman was killed in a landslide while a man died after he hit his head on the pavement as the storm cut off electricity in the area.

Tropical Storm “Urduja” (international name Kai-Tak) killed 47 people in the central Philippines last month, while Tropical Storm “Vinta” (international name Tembin) killed 240 people in Mindanao.

The state weather service warned the new disturbance was poised to hit the western tourist island of Palawan with gusts of 65 kilometers per hour later on Tuesday.

“The residents are really sad. It is tough that we have three storms coming one after another. People have lost their livelihood and have had no rest since Christmas,” said Gil Acosta, information officer of the island.

Palawan accounted for 37 of the recorded “Vinta” deaths, with 60 other people still missing, Acosta added.

About 4,000 people across the central Philippines had moved to safer ground to escape high winds and flooding, the national disaster agency in Manila said.

“There is continuous flooding in some towns where the floodwater from the previous storm has yet to subside,” provincial disaster information officer Julius Regner said by telephone from Cebu City.

The Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office identified the fatalities as Richie Pimentel, 39, and Flora Basadre Mata, 64, both residents of Malabuyoc in Cebu province, who died in a landslide triggered by “Agaton,” which made landfall in nearby Santander town at about 5 a.m. Tuesday.

PDRRMO spokesperson Julius Regner said Mata was inside her house when it was buried in mud from the landslide that hit Barangay Looc in Malabuyoc. Mata was among those told to leave their homes due to the downpour brought by Agaton, but she refused to heed the advice of the local disaster management office.

Pimentel, on the other hand, panicked when he heard shouts from the neighborhood and jumped out of the window of his house. He landed on a concrete pavement head first and was sent to a nearby hospital where he was declared dead on arrival.

Regner added Pimentel may have been unaware of the concrete pavement because of the power outage in the area since 3 a.m.

The PDRRMO reported that a total of 119 families, consisting of 595 individuals, were evacuated due to landslide threats in Toledo City and the towns of Barili and Boljoon.

Twelve barangays in the cities of Mandaue and Toledo and the towns of Moalboal, Dumanjug and Boljoon were also flooded.

Aside from Malabuyoc, landslides were also reported in Ginatilan and Toledo City.

The PDRRMO declared a red alert status for the entire province to provide close monitoring and situation updates to all local government units. Red alert status means all personnel are on standby for deployment.

Teams were also deployed in Toledo City to assist the local government in the evacuation due to flooding and landslide.

Another team was deployed in southern Cebu to verify damages and the needs of evacuees.

As of 11 a.m., Agaton was traversing Sulu Sea and heading towards Palawan.

It was estimated at 170 km. west of Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental with maximum winds of up to 170 km. near the center and gustiness of up to 90 kph, and continued to move west at 28 kph.

Storm Signal No. 1 has been lifted for the entire province of Cebu.

Agaton left more than 2,000 passengers stranded in various seaports.

The Philippine Coast Guard said in an advisory Tuesday that 2,308 passengers were stranded as travel of 34 sea vessels and 66 rolling cargoes was suspended in the affected areas of Central Visayas, Southeastern Mindanao, Northern Mindanao and Eastern Visayas.

Tropical Cyclone Warning Signal No. 1 has been raised over the provinces of Palawan, including Cuyo Island, Guimaras, Negros Oriental, Negros Occidental, southern Antique, and southern Iloilo.

Twenty domestic flights were canceled at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport due to bad weather, officials of the Manila International Airport Authority said on Tuesday.

Eight flights from Philippine Airlines-PAL Express, another eight from Cebu Pacific Air and two from its sister airline CebGo were canceled on Friday due to Agaton.

Those canceled included PAL -2P flights to and from Roxas and Legazpi; Cebu Pacific 5J flights to and from Caticlan, Puerto Princesa and Legazpi, and CebGo-DG flights to and from Tablas and Masbate.

The airlines offered passengers affected by the cancellations to rebook their flights within 30 days of the original departure date or get a full refund.



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