‘Pepito’ displaces 22,000 residents in Quezon

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    AT least 22,000 residents of Quezon province have been displaced by tropical storm “Pepito” which made a landfall in Aurora on Tuesday night.

    Pepito, as of 5 p.m. yesterday, was moving of the out of the Philippine area responsibility, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said.

    Pepito made landfall in Casiguran town in Aurora at around 9 p.m. Tuesday. It intensified into a severe tropical storm at around 2 p.m.yesterday.

    As of 4 p.m yesterday, it was some 295 km west of Dagupan City in Pangasinan, packing maximum sustained winds of 95 kph near the center and gustiness of up to 115 kph. It was moving westward at 15kph.

    Pepito is forecast to exit the country this morning or this afternoon. All storm warning signals have been lifted.

    Mark Timbal, spokesman of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, said 4,790 families or 22,456 persons from 64 barangays in the province were evacuated as of yesterday afternoon.

    In the Cagayan Valley region, 184 families or 645 persons were evacuated while 253 persons evacuated in Aurora, he said.

    Timbal said many of the evacuees have returned to their homes as floodings have started to subside.

    The NDRRMC did not record any major problem from Pepito, except flooding and the evacuation.

    Ricardo Jalad, NDRRMC executive director and administrator of the Office of Civil Defense, said heavy rains and flooding were also reported in Catanduanes and Zambales.

    In Quezon, Jalad said, the rains caused flooding in Lopez town. He said the floods were as high as four feet. The Lopez portion of Maharlika Highway was not yet passable to light vehicles as of yesterday noon.

    “Many were stranded along the highway, along Maharlika Highway. Local government units are assisting, including those from uniformed services, them especially those with medical condition,” said Jalad.

    Jalad said there are no casualty so far reported due to Pepito.

    Timbal said there are minor landslides reported in some areas and these are now subject to clearing operations by the Department of Public Works and Highways.

    Elson Egargue, head of Aurora provincial disaster risk reduction office, said Pepito’s winds were “not that strong and the flooding that we were expecting did not come.”

    Lopez town Mayor Rachel Ubana said 4,870 town residents from 25 barangays were evacuated.

    She said the number may increase because some barangays have yet to submit reports. She said the town has 95 barangays.

    Ubana said rice crops planted in 326 hectares of land were damaged by Pepito. She said farmers were supposed to start harvesting their crops in two weeks.