Tacloban City under state of calamity as 'Urduja' puts Eastern Visayas in 'serious danger'

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Story updated to include PAGASA's 7 p.m. update, statements from Eastern Samar Acting Governor Marcelo Picardal.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 15) — Tacloban City is in a state of calamity after tropical storm Urduja brought heavy rains that flooded more than half of the city, forcing the evacuation of over a thousand families, local officials said Friday.

The council passed a resolution making the declaration city after reports showed 80 of 138 barangays in Tacloban were flooded, Vice Mayor Jerry Yaokasin said.

Landslides were also reported in eight barangays.

A state of calamity will allow the quick release of funds needed for relief and rehabilitation as 1,039 families were already staying in evacuation centers.

In 2013, Tacloban was ground zero of Super Typhoon Yolanda, one of the strongest storms ever recorded where over 6,000 people died.

In neighboring Eastern Samar, three people were missing as heavy rains from Urduja caused flooding in parts of the province

In an interview on CNN Philippines' News Night, acting governor Marcelo Picardal said 274 or nearly 50 percent of barangays in the province had been affected by Urduja.

Some 7,636 families had fled to different evacuation centers and relief goods had been distributed in affected areas.

Urduja threatens Eastern Visayas

In its 5 p.m. weather bulletin, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said Urduja continued to put Tacloban and the rest of Eastern Visayas in "serious danger."

As of 8 p.m., PAGASA said the storm continues to pack winds of 75 kilometers per hour (kph) near the center, with gusts of up to 90 kph.

Urduja was at near stand-still, slowly moving northwest at 5 kph. It is expected to make landfall over the provinces of Eastern Samar and Northern Samar on Saturday.

The storm was spotted 240 kilometers east of Borongan City, Eastern Samar as of 7 p.m., PAGASA said.

PAGASA warned against possible flooding and landslides in the Visayas and Bicol where Urduja is expected to continue to dump rain.

It also warned of possible coastal flooding in Northern and Eastern Samar.

Northern Samar, Eastern Samar, Samar and Biliran are still under Tropical Cyclone Warning Signal No. 2, PAGASA said.

Urduja also prompted the Philippine Coast Guard to suspend ferry trips, as PAGASA warned of waves as high as 14 meters off the seas where Signal No. 2 has been raised.

"Napakabagal ang movement ng bagyong Urduja," National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) Spokesperson Mina Marasigan said. "Maaari pa ito na mag-ipon ng mas marami pang tubig galing sa ating karagatan at magbanla talaga ng scattered-to-widespread rains sa mga lugar na dadaanan nito. Kaya napakahalaga talaga, kung kayo ay nakatira sa flood-prone areas, lumikas na tayo." 

However, Marasigan said the government had not initiated forced evacuation.

Impact across the country

The following areas are under Signal No. 1:

In Luzon:

  • Catanduanes
  • Camarines Sur
  • Albay
  • Sorsogon
  • Romblon
  • Masbate including Burias and Ticao Islands

In the Visayas:

  • Leyte
  • Southern Leyte
  • Northern Cebu
  • Capiz
  • Aklan
  • Northern Iloilo

In Mindanao:

  • Dinagat Islands

The NDRRMC said 8,483 passengers were stranded at the ports of Manila, Central Luzon, Eastern Visayas and Bicol.

Fishermen and small seacraft were warned against sailing off the coast of the Bicol region and Visayas due to rough seas.

Social Welfare Department secretary Emmanuel Leyco said 368,000 family food packs amounting to P123 million, food and non-food items worth P393 million, and P245 million in contingency funds were on standby for storm victims.

Because of its slow movement, Urduja was expected to leave Philippine territory only by next week, PAGASA weather forecaster Lorie Dela Cruz told CNN Philippines. The storm was forecast to be 300 kilometers west of Puerto Princesa City in Palawan by December 20.

Some local governments suspended classes on Friday.