12 areas under signal No. 1

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    TWELVE areas remained under signal No. 1 yesterday as tropical depression “Ofel” thrice made landfall.

    Ofel intensified into a tropical depression, from a low pressure area monitored off Eastern Samar on Tuesday afternoon.

    There were reports of fatalities from floods but disaster agencies have not verified if these were directly related to Ofel.

    The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said Ofel will move west-northwestward or westward over the inland seas of Southern Luzon and may pass close or over Romblon and Mindoro provinces. It is likely to emerge over the West Philippine Sea today and exit the Philippine area of responsibility on tomorrow.

    PAGASA said Ofel is expected to remain a tropical depression while crossing the Southern Luzon area. “However, this weather disturbance is forecast to intensify into a tropical storm after emerging over the West Philippine Sea,” it said.

    PAGASA said Ofel first made landfall in Can-avid, Eastern Samar at around 2:30 a.m., then in in Matnog, Sorsogon at around 6 a.m. Its third landfall was in Burias Island in Masbate at around noon.

    In a bulletin issued at 5 p.m. yesterday, PAGASA said the 12 areas which remained under signal No. 1 were Batangas, the southern portion of Laguna, central and southern portions of Quezon, Calamian Islands, Occidental Mindoro, Oriental Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Albay,and Masbate (including Ticao and Burias Islands).
    Earlier, 14 areas were under signal No. 1.

    As of 4 p.m yesterday, Ofel was some 125 km west of Juban, Sorsogon or 70 km east northeast of Romblon, Romblon. It was moving westward at 15 kph,
    packing maximum sustained winds of 45 kph near the center and gustiness of up to 55 kph.

    PAGASA said light to moderate rains, with at times heavy rains, will be experienced in the Visayas, Central Luzon, Mindanao, Metro Manila, Palawan, Cagayan, Isabela, and the rest of Bicol region due to Ofel and the southwest monsoon.

    In Sorsogon, Matnog town administrator Dionebel Figueroa said sea travel was suspended due to Ofel, stranding 250 vehicles carrying essential goods to Visayas and of Mindanao and 412 passengers.

    The Office of Civil Defense-Central Visayas information said 17 barangays in the city were flooded due to heavy rains on Tuesday night, displacing about 500 residents. The flooding subsided a few hours later.

    Its information officer, Riza Joy Hernandez, did not explicitly say the incidents were related to Ofel.

    Iloilo and Cebu are not covered by any signal warning. In these areas, seven people were reported to have died from flooding.

    Three of the victims, all children, drowned in Barangay Intaluan in Potolan town in Iloilo at around 10 a.m. yesterday, said S/Sgt. Raffy Gonzales of the Potolan police station.

    The victims were identified as Rodelyn Moreno, 9; John Arnold Penafiel, 10, and his younger brother, Arnold, six.

    Gonzales said the three were among the children who went to the river in the barangay to catch fish. However, he said the victims decided to swim and were subsequently carried away by strong currents.

    In Cebu City, two people also drowned on Tuesday night. They were 85-year-old Labiano Detuya, and Leonardo Otto, 49.

    Detuya drowned right inside his house beside a creek in Barangay Lorega-San Miguel, said Ramil Ayuman, of the city’s Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office.

    Ayuman said Otto, who was reportedly drunk, was crossing a swollen spillway in Barangay Layug when the current took him.

    He said a 16-year-old boy, whose name he cannot immediately give, is subject to search and rescue operation due to flooding that hit his family’s residence in downtown Cebu City. – With Noel Talacay