By ERWIN MASCARIÑAS
THE COAST Guard suspended sea travel in the northeastern part of Mindanao even as typhoon “Ompong” continued to maintain its strength as it moved inland toward northern Luzon while enhancing the prevailing west winds in Mindanao yesterday.
In northern Mindanao, officials suspended classes due to the threat of bad weather.
In Surigao City in Caraga, authorities cancelled all boat trips off Surigao City.
“We issued an order for the cancellation of all trips and sea voyages from the port of Lipata and the Surigao City port on Thursday afternoon” in coordination with the Maritime Industry Authority and the Philippine Ports Authority, said Ensign Jesmar Dasas, commander of the Coast Guard station in Surigao City.
He said the big waves make it dangerous for any form of vessel to cross open waters even if the destination is only the nearby island of Dinagat Island, Siargao Island or any part of Surigao del Norte.
The Coast Guard warned that those who insist would be apprehended.
“Whoever we will catch, we will apprehend and impound the boat. We will recommend the cancellation of their licenses and we will file administrative cases,” said Dasas.
The decision, he said, was made after the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration issued a gale warning in the eastern seaboard as soon as “Ompong” entered Philippine territory.
“Ompong” has grown in diameter from 600 kilometers on Tuesday to 900 km the following day, prompting more areas to take precautionary measures.
The powerful typhoon is forecast to make landfall today in northern Luzon and exit tomorrow. But the typhoon has been enhancing the southwest monsoon, spawing rains in many parts of Mindanao.
“Ompong,” observed at 605 kilometers east of Baler, Quezon at 7 am, was packing winds at 205 kph, gustiness of 255 kph and moving toward northern Luzon at 20 kph.
The southwest monsoon, enhanced by the typhoon, is expected to bring moderate to occasionally heavy rains over Visayas while scattered light to moderate to at times heavy rains over Palawan, Zamboanga Peninsula, northern Mindanao and Caraga.
As of 11 pm on Thursday, some 91 passengers — 65 men, 20 women and six children — were stranded at the Surigao port.
The same day, Skyjet Airlines also announced that its flights to and from Siargao Island have been cancelled.
In Ozamiz City, acting mayor Irene Luansing suspended classes in both public and private schools, except in the tertiary level, yesterday.
The provincial government of Misamis Oriental also canceled classes in day care and elementary levels in five municipalities as of 1 pm on Thursday. These municipalities include Lagonglong, Salay, Binoangan, Jasaan, and Initao.
“These areas experienced intermittent but heavy rains,” said Fernando Vicente Dy, director of Misamis Oriental’s Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office.
Dy said the capitol has not monitored any weather-related damage in province, and that disaster management officials would continue to monitor the weather conditions.
Dy said Misamis Oriental’s disaster management office has already activated its quick response team for deployment.
The Provincial Social Welfare and Development has also prepared its emergency packs in case of mandatory evacuation.
In Cagayan de Oro, eight schools have suspended classes from elementary to high school.
These are Balubal Elementary and High Schools, Cugman Elementary and High Schools, Malasag Elementary School, Canitoan National High School, Lapasan National High School, Cagayan de Oro National High School, Carmen National High School, and Patag National High School.
In Iligan, Mayor Celso Regencia placed the city under “alert and monitoring status” and directed all barangays to conduct preparation measures, implement constant monitoring and issue corresponding safety alerts.
Regencia said he issued the directive for precautionary purposes even as he pointed out that the city has not been included in the list of areas expected to be battered by “Ompong.”
But “extra measures are recommended for barangays along rivers, along with the coastlines and those in the low-lying areas,” Regencia said.
He also directed all Barangay Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Committees and the Barangay Disaster Operation Centers in Iligan to be activated.
“The people are advised to take precautionary measures against the impacts associated with these hazards which include flashfloods and landslides,” Regencia said. (with reports from PNA)