[PHOTO  - Floods engulf this unidentified village in Baguio City, Benguet province, on Wednesday. The city was one of many areas in northern Luzon adversely affected by Tropical Storm Helen. PHOTO BY THOM PICAÑA]

MANILA, AUGUST 16, 2012 (MANILA TIMES) Written by William B. Depasupil and Jing Villamente, Reporters - TROPICAL Storm Helen (international codename Kai-tak) dumped heavy rains on vast areas of Northern Luzon on Wednesday, triggering floods and landslides.

Four persons died, two of whom were identified as Andrew Mariano Batara and Armando Valdez Borbon. Both drowned. The two men were inside a tunnel when a landslide hit a gold-rush site near Baguio City, authorities said.

Helen made landfall in Isabela province before dawn on Wednesday with a rain intensity of intense to torrential within its 500 kilometers radius.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said that flashfloods were monitored in at least 40 barangays, affecting 1,801 families or 9,975 persons.

Among those flooded were six barangays in Masinloc, Zambales province and Bauang, La Union province. A landslide was reported in Brgy. Wenceslao, Caba, La Union.

The provinces of Mindoro, Batangas, Laguna, Cavite and Metro Manila also experienced moderate to heavy rains.

The Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) said that Helen weakened after making landfall. It was estimated at 90 km North of Laoag City with maximum sustained winds of 75 kph near the center and gustiness of up to 90 kph.

Although it has weakened, Pagasa said that the storm continues to threaten Northern Luzon.

Among the worst-hit areas were four small northern farming towns, where water reached neck-deep in some areas and landslides cut off a major highway, said Melchito Castro, civil defense chief in the region.

“We have been experiencing really heavy rains since last night, and our rescuers have evacuated some residents,” Castro said.

The new fatalities bring to 99 the number of people who have died across Luzon due to the storms since the beginning of last week.

Norma Talosig, the civil defense chief for northeastern Luzon, said that authorities there were closely watching the rising waters of the Cagayan river, the country’s largest river basin, amid fears it could overflow.

At more than 500 kilometers long, the heavily silted Cagayan river is the longest in the country and cuts across four northeastern agricultural provinces.

Areas to the south that were trying to recover from devastating floods last week, including Manila, also endured strong rain, prompting authorities to warn residents in low-lying areas of the capital to be ready to evacuate.

The NDRRMC said that many low-lying farming areas near Manila remained flooded, and with the fresh rain there was little chance of the waters receding anytime soon.

NDRRMC chief Benito Ramos said that Helen did not cause any major fresh floods in Manila, 80 percent of which was submerged last week amid an intense 48-hour deluge triggered by another tropical storm, But he said that people in its coastal areas and others in dangerous areas should be prepared to leave their homes if the rains worsened.

Local governments declared school holidays in some areas of Manila on Wednesday because of the heavy rains, while several domestic flights were delayed or cancelled due to bad visibility. With a report from AFP


4 dead as 'Helen' batters Luzon By Helen Flores (The Philippine Star) Updated August 16, 2012 12:00 AMComments (2)

[PHOTO -A motorcycle passes a stalled pickup truck on a flooded street in San Fernando, La Union yesterday. Inset shows Eastern Police District officers in Marikina City preparing to test a search and rescue boat made from metal drums. JONJON VICENCIO]

MANILA, Philippines - Tropical storm “Helen” (international name Kai-tak) maintained its strength yesterday as it moved away from the country after battering Northern Luzon provinces, leaving at least four people dead.

Stormy weather would still prevail over some parts of Northern Luzon as Helen moved toward the West Philippine Sea, according to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA).

As of 5 p.m. yesterday, storm warning signal Number 2 remained hoisted over the Batanes group of islands, Cagayan, Calayan, Babuyan group of islands, Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Kalinga, Apayao and Abra.

Signal no. 1, meanwhile, was still up in Isabela, Northern Aurora, Quirino, Nueva Vizcaya, Benguet and Ifugao, Mountain Province, Pangasinan and La Union.

As of 4 p.m. yesterday, the center of Helen was spotted 90 kilometers north of Laoag City, Ilocos Norte with maximum sustained winds of 75 kilometers per hour (kph) near the center and gustiness of up to 90 kph.

Helen was forecast to move west northwest at 17 kph but slightly weakened after hitting landmass in Palanan, Isabela at 1 a.m. yesterday.

It was expected to be out of the Philippine area of responsibility yesterday afternoon at 390 km west northwest of Laoag City.

PAGASA said Helen will continue to enhance the southwest monsoon which will bring rains over the rest of Luzon and the Visayas, particularly over the western section.

At 2:30 p.m. yesterday, the weather bureau issued a yellow rainfall warning over Metro Manila, meaning the area could experience 7.5 to 15 millimeters per hour of rains (heavy) and flooding is possible.

PAGASA continued to warn residents living in low-lying and mountainous areas under public storm warning signals against possible flashfloods and landslides as Helen could still dump 15 to 25 mm per hour of rain (heavy-intense) within its 500-km radius.

Likewise, those living in coastal areas under public storm warning signal no. 2 were alerted against big waves and storm surges generated by the storm.

The agency also advised operators of fishing boats and other small seacraft not to venture out into the seaboards of Central and Southern Luzon and the Visayas due to the effects of Helen and the southwest monsoon.

Meanwhile, Magat dam in Isabela has stopped releasing water as of 2 p.m. yesterday, PAGASA said.

However, Angat and Ipo dams in Bulacan continued to discharge water, the weather bureau said. The water level at Angat and Ipo were recorded at 213.70 meters and 100.20 meters, respectively, as of 2 p.m. yesterday.

One gate of Ambuklao and three gates of Binga dams in Benguet also remained open as of yesterday afternoon.

More families affected

Reports from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) and the local police showed that the four fatalities came from the Ilocos region.

NDRRMC said Andrew Batara, 47, drowned while swimming in a river in Dingras, Ilocos Norte last Tuesday. His nephew, four-year-old Robimar Aleluya, was rescued by authorities.

Police Superintendent Jovencio Badua, spokesman for the Ilocos regional police, said Savino Mosquite, 44, of Barangay Lioac, Naguilian, La Union, died of electrocution.

The victim died before reaching the Naguilian District Hospital.

Meanwhile, a one-year-old child named Princess Nathalie Jamon drowned in Paoay, Ilocos Norte.

On Tuesday, the NDRRMC reported the death of Armando Borbon, 37, the first fatality of the storm. The victim experienced epileptic seizure and fell in a flooded rice field in Pangasinan.

More than 2,000 families have been affected by the storm based on available reports by disaster management units.

The Office of Civil Defense Region 1 said a total of 1,801 families or 9,975 persons have been affected in Pangasinan, La Union, Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur.

A total of 135 families or 592 persons in the Ilocos region are now inside evacuation centers. The major roads in the region, however, remain passable.

NDRRMC said 357 families in Masinloc, Zambales were displaced by a flashflood. The agency is still awaiting situation reports from other field units.

Flooding also occurred in Bauang, La Union after the Bauang River overflowed due to continuous rains.

A landslide also occurred in Barangay Wenceslao in Caba, La Union but no fatalities were reported as of yesterday afternoon.

NDRRMC said the Coast Guard in Northern Luzon has been placed on heightened alert and has barred vessels from venturing out to sea.

The Health department, meanwhile, has pre-positioned medicine worth P100,000.

The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) said that 15 roads remain impassable as of noon yesterday in five regions as a result of the heavy rains.

In most cases, the roads were declared closed to traffic because of landslides, cave-in pavements and floodwaters.

Metro Manila on alert

At least 50 percent of Valenzuela City villages were still inundated up to three feet deep, which the local government blamed on the overflowing Obando River in Bulacan.

Anha Majia, Valenzuela City public information officer, said that most of the affected barangays were on the Polo area, including Barangay Poblacion where the Valenzuela Emergency Hospital is located.

Mejia said that the breached dike in the Obando River is yet to be reconstructed and floodwaters coming from it, in addition to the high tide, submerged at least 13 low-lying villages in the city. Valenzuela has 33 barangays.

In Navotas, at least 100 families, mostly coming from the coastal barangays of Daang-Hari and Tangos, remained at the city’s evacuation centers.

In Malabon City, floodwaters already receded in the city’s barangays and classes have resumed, while the social welfare office and rescue unit of Caloocan City were placed on alert.

The water level of Marikina River rose to 15.2 meters above sea level due to heavy rains brought by Helen.

Paul Sison, the city’s public information officer, advised residents in the riverbanks and nearby low-lying areas to closely monitor the Marikina River as he pointed out that evacuation is not yet necessary.

Calamity loans for OFWs

Meanwhile, Vice President Jejomar Binay said overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) with families living in areas under a state of calamity may apply for the Home Development Mutual Fund’s (HDMF or Pag-Ibig Fund) calamity loan.

Binay, chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Pag-Ibig Fund, said OFWs who are currently out of the country may designate a representative to submit required documents in Pag-Ibig branches where they remit their contributions.

“All OFWs who are active members of Pag-Ibig with 24 months’ contribution and are living in areas that are declared under a state of calamity can avail of calamity loan,” Binay said.

Binay, who also chairs the Housing and Urban Development Coodinating Council (HUDCC), said that representatives of OFWs need a special power of attorney duly authenticated by the Philippine embassy in the OFW’s host country.

He said they must also present two valid IDs.

The Vice President is set to visit Pag-Ibig Fund’s Imus, Pasay, Manila and Caloocan branches today to check the agency’s processing of calamity loan applications.

He said that under Pag-Ibig Fund’s calamity loan program, members may borrow up to 80 percent of their total contributions to be paid in two years.

“The only thing they need to do is to submit two valid IDs and calamity loan application form indicating their addresses which are included in the declared areas under a state of calamity,” Binay said.

Binay also said interest rates for calamity loans have been reduced by almost 50 percent.

– Alexis Romero, Jose Rodel Clapano, Evelyn Macairan, Perseus Echeminada, Non Alquitran, Pete Laude, Evelyn Macairan, Charlie Lagasca, Jun Elias, Ric Sapnu, Raymund Catindig, Rainier Allan Ronda, AP

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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