Super Typhoon LAWIN (HAIMA) Batters Laoag City

It was perhaps coincidental that the strongest typhoon to hit the country this year, and perhaps the fiercest to ever hit Ilocos Norte and Laoag City, was codenamed Lawin (Eagle), to Filipinos, the symbol of strength and fear!

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It was on October 19, 2016 when the City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (CDRRMC) was convened, as the whole province was declared under Storm signal number 2. In the afternoon, the signal was upgraded to number 3, and then not too long after, number 4, and shortly, number 5! It was a Yolanda type super typhoon that threatened the city. It was forecast to directly cross Tuguegarao City in the East, and Laoag City on the West. Everyone was already on standby for eventualities, although much earlier, forced evacuation was already carried out in the coastal barangays of Gabu, La Paz, Caaoacan, and at Sitio Lusong in Brgy. 29, as residents were placed at ready evacuation centers.

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Howling winds and intermittent rain battered the city starting at midnight of October 19. Electricity was cut off and network signals went out. Telephone lines were severed and total communication breakdown was in effect. It was an imagined nightmare coming to reality in the city of Laoag!

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At dawn, a miracle has happened in Laoag! It was calm and people were starting to clean up. There was ZERO casualty in the city! Evacuees started returning to their barangays, though against CDRRMC orders. But at mid-morning,  it seemed Lawin had come back. This time, both rain and wind battered the city, watching debris fly, branches and leaves threwn all over, roofs and G.I. sheets scattered everywhere. It was later known that the calm was when the eye of the typhoon was directly over Laoag city, and the ensuing sudden wrath was Lawin’s backlash. In a short while, the super typhoon was out in the South China sea, leaving the province and other areas in total disarray.

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Initial assessment of damages has put the agricultural sector as the worst hit area. Partial report from the Office of the City Agriculturist has estimated rice crop damage alone at 7 Million pesos. Infrastructure at 27.9 Million pesos. The number of evacuees reached 1,200 individuals or 307 families in 11 evacuation centers. These initial reports have placed the whole of Laoag City under a State of Calamity, as declared by the Sangguniang Panlungsod in a special session in the afternoon of October 20, 2016.

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While the Governor has declared October 21 as a non-working holiday in the whole province of Ilocos Norte, both in private and public institutions, Laoag City Mayor Chevylle V. Farinas has asked all Laoag City employees to report for work to pave way for rehabilitation of damaged facilities, and distribution of relief goods to affected families.

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Meanwhile, hundreds of Laoaguenos have trooped to the city hall to take advantage of the 24 hour free-charging of cell phones and other rechargeable gadgets, free emergency call overseas, and free Wi-Fi use offered earlier by Mayor CVF, in cooperation with Vertext Handyphones of Hon. Handy Lao.

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Mayor Chevylle was quick to acknowledge the efficiency of the CDRRMC under Dr. Melvin Manuel, including the DRRMCs of the barangays, and the media practitioners whom the Mayor considers as valuable partners. It was through their selfless efforts, and of course with a lot of prayers, that the Laoaguenos have again proven their tenacity and resiliency in times of disasters like Lawin.

God Bless and Mabuhay all Laoaguenos!

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