Typhoon “Ulysses” battered the heart of Luzon as it made landfall over Quezon Province before midnight Wednesday, grazing Metro Manila with high-velocity winds on its steady march to Zambales toward the West Philippine Sea.
The storm made landfall in the vicinity of Patnanungan, Quezon at 10:30 p.m. last night, while lashing the Bicol region still reeling from deadly typhoons Quinta and Rolly, which killed dozens of people and left thousands of families homeless.
The center of Ulysses made another landfall over the northern Quezon town of Burdeos by 11:20 p.m., but owing to the storm's 670-km diameter, its winds were tearing roofs off even in Metro Manila, which was under storm signal No. 3.
Forecasters expected the storm to cross Central Luzon and emerge over the western seaboard of Zambales by midday Thursday, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said.
The country’s 20th storm this year reached its peak intensity of 140 kilometers per hour before it hit Quezon.
One person died and three more were missing in Bicol even before the tropical cyclone hit land, regional disaster officials in Bicol reported.
The Office of Civil Defense-Region 5 said a 68-year-old man reportedly died on the roof of his house in Daet, Camarines Norte, with no additional details given on the cause of his death.
Three men from Vinzons, Camarines Norte are also missing, said OCD-5, as it also recorded at least four landslides. Meanwhile, rivers overflowed, and roads were rendered impassable by Ulysses’ onslaught across the island province of Catanduanes.
The typhoon dumped torrential rains in Manila and its nearby provinces as it swept across the already-sodden country. As many as 19 provinces faced 3-meter-high storm surges along their coasts as Ulysses (international name: Vamco) plodded across Luzon, the state weather bureau said.
Ulysses grazed the Polilio Islands and Catanduanes -- which was devastated by Typhoon “Rolly” less than two weeks ago -- before hitting Luzon’s mainland, making its presence felt with intense winds and rain across the country’s eastern seaboard.
The weather service also warned of flooding, landslides and storm surges several meters high along parts of the east coast and in the capital.
As a result, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) was put on red alert ahead of the typhoon’s arrival.
MMDA chairman Danilo Lim said frontline personnel were on standby to render assistance in road clearing, rescue and quick response, traffic management, and other operations to different areas in the National Capital Region, which was placed under Signal No. 3 on Tuesday.
Lim said ambulances, rubber boats, truck-mounted cranes, backhoes, water pumps, and rescue equipment will be immediately deployed to different areas in Metro Manila when necessary.
The operations of the Pasig River Ferry Service were also suspended.
“We need to be prepared for any eventuality. We have coordinated with local disaster risk reduction and management councils in Metro Manila concerning the implementation of disaster preparedness measures in their localities for the safety of the public,” he said.
The Metropolitan Public Safety Office (MPSO) has been tasked to monitor the movement of the typhoon and possible flash floods that may result from torrential rains.
Quezon City and Manila City have most of the flood-prone areas in Metro Manila.
All 64 of its pumping stations are operational, the MMDA said.
The Ninoy Aquino International Airport announced the cancellation of flight operations beginning midnight until 6 AM of Thursday.
Malacanang suspended government work and public-school classes in all levels in Metro Manila and several other regions starting Wednesday afternoon until Thursday due to the possible impact of Ulysses.
Government work and classes were also suspended in Regions II, III, Calabarzon, Mimaropa, Region V, and the Cordillera Administrative Region.
Government agencies involved in the delivery of basic and health services, preparedness or response to disaster and calamities, and other vital services will continue their operations, the order stated.
Thousands of people were already evacuated from their homes in storm-battered parts of the country Wednesday as the third typhoon in as many weeks barreled towards the Bicol region.
The country is in a similar situation to that in 2004, when four strong tropical cyclones from November to December devastated eight regions.
The four -- Typhoon "Unding", Tropical Storm "Violeta", Tropical Depression "Winnie" and Typhoon "Yoyong" -- affected a total of 712,981 families or 3,629,193 persons from 3,186 barangays of 342 municipalities and 31 cities in 35 provinces, according to a report on ReliefWeb, an information service provided by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
Those storms caused a total of 1,060 deaths, with 1,023 persons injured and 566 other individuals reported missing, the report added.
With Ulysses, destructive winds and torrential rain were also expected in parts of central and southern Luzon, the state weather bureau said.
About 50,000 people living in the typhoon's path were ordered to leave their homes, said regional Civil Defense spokesman Gremil Alexis Naz.
The Bicol region, which Ulysses will cross as it heads towards Manila, is still reeling from deadly typhoons Quinta and Rolly, which killed dozens of people and left thousands of families homeless.
Swathes of the region remain without power and with only limited or no telecommunication services after Rolly -- the most powerful typhoon this year -- toppled power lines, destroyed houses and flooded roads.
Pre-emptive evacuations of about 400,000 people were credited with saving many lives.
Evacuation efforts on Catanduanes have been complicated this time, however, after Rolly destroyed some of its emergency shelters.
"It's like we are on 1 percent recovery and then ... Ulysses is coming," Catanduanes Gov. Joseph Cua told local broadcaster ABS-CBN.
"I hope that people will never get tired of helping us."
Ulysses was moving west southwestward at 15 km/h, packing maximum sustained winds of 140 km/h near the center and gustiness of up to 195 km/h.
National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) executive director Ricardo Jalad said preemptive evacuations were taking place in the Bicol Region as the typhoon continued to move towards the country's landmass.
“Preemptive evacuation has been conducted in typhoon-affected areas especially in the Bicol region because they are aware of the risk, not only flood but also of lahar flow," Jalad said in a mix of Filipino and English.
Jalad, also said the same measures were being taken in Quezon, where Ulysses, which is expected to cause substantial damage, was likely to make landfall.
“Based on Pagasa's forecast, it is expected to reach typhoon level and would maintain strength until it reaches Metro Manila. There are heavy rains, although the forecast for Metro Manila is light to moderate rains but tomorrow (Thursday), we expect intense rains," he added.
He said the public should heed the weather bureau’s warnings and follow their city government calls to evacuate if necessary.
“For example, in Marikina, we have water level monitoring along the Marikina River and they also have a gauge on when to evacuate. The local government units are aware here in Metro Manila," he added.
The NDRRMC on Wednesday reminded local government units (LGUs) in the Bicol region to boost information dissemination among residents ahead of the onslaught of Ulysses.
"Our preparations for 'Ulysses' are now in full swing. We have been sending warning messages since last night to ensure that communities with signal(s) can be warned in advance," Timbal said.
Timbal said sea travel has been suspended due to the tropical cyclone.
The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) advised all concerned LGUs to implement storm preparedness protocols and brace for the typhoon’s impact.
This includes the prepositioning of supplies, equipment, and personnel for immediate response.
In Pampanga, local disaster authorities evacuated scores of families situated in high-risk areas that are prone to flooding and landslides.
Tropical Storm Warning Signal No. 3 was hoisted over at least 16 areas in the eastern portion of Pampanga, according to the weather bureau and the local disaster risk reduction and management Office. The rest of Pampanga remained under Signal No. 2
A total of 25 families or 79 individuals from Barangay Sapang Kawayan in Masantol town have been forced to leave their houses to avoid being trapped by floodwater as Ulysses is expected to dump more rains in the next 24 hours.
The evacuees were temporarily housed at Sapang Kawayan National High School, said Angelina Blanco, head of Pampanga’s provincial disaster risk reduction and management office (PDRRMO).
The towns of Candaba, Arayat, Sta. Ana, San Luis, Mexico, San Simon, Sto. Tomas, Apalit, Bacolor, Sta. Rita, and coastal municipalities including Guagua, Macabebe, Masantol, Sasmuan, Lubao and City of San Fernando were under Signal no. 3.
Blanco said 21 barangays remained underwater due to recent rains spawned by typhoon Rolly. The situation was aggravated by high tide.
She said rescue and medical personnel including equipment have been alerted and prepositioned and ready for dispatch.
"The PDRRMO was on high alert since Tuesday due to typhoon Ulysses," said Blanco while directing rescue personnel to be prepared for any eventuality.
Military and police units were now on alert to assist disaster response operations in areas along the path of Typhoon Ulysses.
"Personnel and equipment of Southern Luzon Command, Northern Luzon Command, and JTF (Joint Task Force) National Capital Region down to the battalion level are already prepositioned in safe locations. Coordination with other LGUs are also in earnest including NDRRMC and its local counterparts to ensure their immediate response as soon as the storm passes," Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff, Gen. Gilbert Gapay said Wednesday.
Gapay said that search-and-rescue units were also working round the clock to evacuate those that are still in low-lying areas. He added that all AFP disaster response units in the entirety of Luzon and parts of Visayas are still on high alert.
Philippine Airlines cancelled eight international and seven domestic flights scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 12, due to the typhoon.
The eight international flights cancelled at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport are to and from Singapore, Taipei, Osaka Kansai, and Tokyo Narita.
The cancelled domestic flights are from Manila to Cebu, General Santos, Cotabato, Tacloban, Cagayan de Oro, Davao, and Zamboanga.
"For the safety of our passengers, PAL has cancelled the following flights in anticipation of Typhoon Ulysses, which is expected to directly affect parts of the Philippines," PAL said in its advisory.
Travelers were advised to monitor updates on flight schedules.
"This is a developing situation; further changes are expected,” the company said.
On Tuesday, PAL cancelled its domestic flights PR - 2923 and PR - 2924 to and from Legazpi.
PAL spokesperson Cielo Villaluna said even after the typhoon recedes and weather improves, it may take some time to for the airline to restore normal schedules, as they would need to reposition aircraft and undertake other operational adjustments based on the revised slots and clearances at the affected airports, in coordination with the airport and air traffic control authorities.
Villaluna advised air travelers not to proceed to the airport if their flights are cancelled, but instead avail of the rebooking options. – WithMacon Ramos-Araneta
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