By ERWIN MASCARIÑAS
and NITZ ARANCON
“BASYANG” lost its steam and weakened back into a tropical depression following its landfall in Cortes, Surigao del Sur at 10 am yesterday but not after burying a family in the same province hours earlier.
The Office of Civil Defense in Caraga said three members of family of four died in a landslide in Purok 8, Barangay Gamuton, Carrascal town in Surigao del Sur at around 5 am, five hours after the landfall in Cortes.
Those who died were identified as Irene Lamela Benguilo, 25, and her children AJ and MJ, six and three years old, respectively. The father, 32-year old James Benguilo was reportedly hurt.
“Basyang” was downgraded from a tropical storm to tropical depression as it weakened following its landfall in Surigao del Sur.
In Severe Weather Bulletin 13 released 11 am, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration said it lifted Tropical Cyclone Warning Signal 2 in Dinagat Island, Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur, Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Camiguin, Misamis Oriental, and northern section of Bukidnon.
But Pagasa said these areas were still under Warning Signal 1 along with Lanao del Norte, northern section of Lanao del Sur, Misamis Occidental, and northern section of Zamboanga del Norte.
Pagasa however forecast scattered to widespread moderate to heavy rains in Palawan, Visayas, Caraga, northern Mindanao and Zamboanga Peninsula, and scattered light to moderate with at times heavy rains in Bicol region and the rest of Mimaropa and Mindanao within a 24-hour period.
As of 10 am yesterday, the center of the weather system was in the vicinity of Cantilan, Surigao del Sur, packing maximum sustained winds of 55 kilometers per hour near the center and gustiness of up to 75 kilometers per hour. It was moving west northwest at 25 kilometers per hour.
It is estimated to be 185 kilometers south of Cuyo, Palawan by this morning; 235 kilometers west of Puerto Princesa City, Palawan tomorrow morning; 125 kilometers west northwest of Pagasa Island, Palawan, outside the Philippine Area of Responsibility by Friday morning.
Classes in elementary and secondary levels around Caraga were suspended. Local authorities in all of the region’s five provinces decided to suspend classes in elementary and secondary levels as early as Sunday.
At the Lipata seaport, a primary hub for cargo and passenger ships for the Visayas mainland, hundreds of passengers remained stranded since Sunday, following the Coast Guard’s directive to ground all ocean-going vessels.
Authorities in northern Mindanao also suspended classes in all levels.
In Cagayan de Oro, officials said they feared that the forecast 300 millimeters of rain would cause floodings in the city and serious damage along coastal areas, said City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office chief Mario Verner Monsanto said.
Tropical storm Vinta, which dumped most of its rains behind Mt. Kitanglad, caused the Cagayan River to spill from its banks and flooded parts of the city before Christmas last year. Mudflows and landslides caused by Vinta killed over 100 persons in Lanao del Norte.
Monsanto said they have ordered classes to be suspended in pre-school and kindergarten levels.
In Misamis Oriental, Gov. Yevgeny Emano also suspended all classes in the province.
In nearby Iligan, city hall spokesman Joe Pantoja said Mayor Celso Regencia also ordered all classes in all levels suspended.
Meanwhile, weather forecasters at the Pagasa station in El Salvador, Misamis Oriental forecast better weather conditions in Cagayan de Oro and Misamis Oriental today.
Luz Mercado, a weather specialist at Pagasa’s Mindanao station, said the tropical threat weakened and changed its track.
Mercado said it had been expected to pack winds of up to 88 kilometers per hour but its winds weakened to 30 to 60 kilometers per hour.
“Magpasalamat gyud na sa Gino-o kay maayo ang lakaw sa panahon sa Valentine’s Day,” said Mercado.
She attributed the weakening of the weather system to the tail-end of the cold front being experienced in Luzon.
Mercado said Pagasa also noted that the tropical threat changed its track from west north west to north west.
She said it did not follow the track of tropical storm “Vinta” that caused much damage in Cagayan de Oro in late December.
“Mas ubos to si Vinta, kay sa kang Basyang kay si Vinta, didto man nag-agi sa Davao region while kini si Basyang, dinhi siya nag-agi sa Surigao area padulong sa Camiguin, ngadto sa Bohol Siquijor, ngadto sa area sa Palawan,” she said.
But despite the weakened weather system, bad weather still caused damages and forced evacuations in Caraga.
Two foot bridges in Barangay Mahayahay in Kitcharao, Agusan del Norte were damaged due to strong water current.
Robert Calubag, the town’s disaster risk reduction management officer, said rescue operations had to be made because some residents were affected.
Bad weather also resulted in making the Quezon-Mapawa-Capalayan-Espina-Navarro road in Surigao City impassable due to mud.
The public works department in Surigao del Norte’s 1st District sent its maintenance crew and equipment to the area.
In Agusan del Norte, the Puyo Bridge in Jabonga town was rendered impassable because a river swelled.
As of 11 am, a national road in Barangay San Roque, Kitcharao, Agusan del Norte, was partly impassable after a portion of one of the lanes collapsed due to erosion. (with reports from mindanews and pna)