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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Extreme heat shuts down schools; public urged to adopt safety measures

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Schools in some areas placed in-person classes under suspension after the country suffered under extreme heat in the past few days. This prompted warning for people to keep a tight rein on the amount of time spent outdoors.

As the heat index bordered on dangerous levels, Manila Mayor Honey Lacuna-Pangan announced suspension of face-to-face classes on all levels—in public and private schools—in the City of Manila on April 25 to April 26.

The statement said, “This is due to the forecasted danger heat index level of 44°C according to the Manila Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office.” Schools are also instructed to shift to asynchronous classes.

The months of March, April and May are typically the hottest and driest in the archipelago, but conditions this year have been exacerbated by the El Niño weather phenomenon.

“It’s so hot you can’t breathe,” said Erlin Tumaron, 60, who works at a seaside resort in Cavite province, south of Manila, where the heat index reached 47 degrees Celsius on Tuesday.

“It’s surprising our pools are still empty. You would expect people to come and take a swim, but it seems they’re reluctant to leave their homes because of the heat.”

The heat index was expected to reach the “danger” level of 42C or higher in at least 30 cities and municipalities on Wednesday, the state weather forecaster said.

The heat index measures what a temperature feels like, taking into account humidity.

There was a 50 percent chance of the heat intensifying in the coming days, said Ana Solis, chief climatologist at the state weather forecaster, because of El Niño. She added that around half the country’s provinces are officially in drought.

The northern municipality of Aparri came under a heat index of 48C on Tuesday, the highest in the country, and was expected to hit 45C on Wednesday.

The actual maximum air temperature was 36.4C on Tuesday, with 35C forecast for Wednesday.

“It’s really hot here,” Eric Vista of the municipal disaster agency told AFP.

Vista said rain showers on Tuesday night offered temporary relief, but it was “back to being super hot” on Wednesday.

Sweltering temperatures in the capital Manila forced many schools to switch to remote learning. The heat index reached 45C on Tuesday and was expected to hit 44C on Wednesday.

Tuesday’s actual high in the city was 37.1C.

In Dagupan city, north of Manila, university employee Edz Alteros said she and her colleagues no longer went out for lunch because of the heat. The heat index in Dagupan reached 47C on Tuesday.

“We get somebody to buy food and we eat inside the office,” Alteros, 27, said.

“The air conditioning is set at 14-18C during the hottest part of the day, but we ease up at other times to prevent the aircon from breaking down.”

Global temperatures hit record highs last year, and the United Nation’s weather and climate agency said Tuesday that Asia was warming at a particularly rapid pace.

The Philippines ranks among the countries most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

Meanwhile, the NGCP placed the Luzon grid on red alert from 3PM to 4PM and yellow alert from 1PM to 3PM and 4PM to 10PM.

Available capacity was placed at 14,241 megawatts (MW) compared to a peak demand of 13,643MW.

The NGCP said four plants have been on forced outage since 2023, four between January and March 2024, and 12 since April 2024. Two are running on derated capacities, for a total of 1,840.3MW unavailable to the grid.

Manila Electric Co. said that with the help of our big-load customers who de-loaded from the grid, it did not resort to manual load dropping (MLD) or rotational power interruptions despite the red alert yesterday, April 23.

“Since the Luzon Grid is still under yellow and red alerts today, April 24, we once again asked for the committed de-loading capacities of our commercial and industrial customers under the Interruptible Load Program (ILP) to help ease the demand,” Meralco said.

Meralco added that if necessary, it is ready to implement MLD as part of its responsibility to manage the system.

“We again urge the public to continue practicing energy conservation and efficiency measures,” Meralco stressed.

The NGCP also placed the Visayas grid on red alert from 12NN to 5PM and 6PM to 8PM and yellow alert from 10AM to 12NN, 5PM to 6PM and 8PM to 9PM.

Available capacity is at 2,462MW versus peak demand of 2,525MW.

One plant has been on forced outage since 2022, two since 2023, 2 between January and March 2024, and 15 since April 2024. Eight power plants are running on derated capacities, for a total of 621.6MW unavailable to the grid.

“The reduced capacity exported by Mindanao to Visayas also aggravated the power situation in Visayas,” NGCP said.

The Mindanao grid was also placed on yellow alert from 10AM to 4PM with available capacity at 2,761MW and peak demand at 2,614MW.

NGCP said nine plants are on forced outage since April 2024 in the Mindanao grid, while five are running on derated capacities, for a total of 673.98MW unavailable to the grid.

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