Thousands flee homes as Typhoon Yutu batters Northern Philippines

A man collects recyclable materials along the breakwater amid strong waves as weather patterns from Typhoon Yutu affect Manila Bay on October 30, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 30 October 2018
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Thousands flee homes as Typhoon Yutu batters Northern Philippines

MANILA: Thousands were forced to flee their homes, while a coastal town was left isolated as typhoon Yutu slammed the Northern Philippines yesterday (Tuesday, Oct. 30).
Packing maximum sustained winds of 150 kilometers per hour and 210 kph gusts, Yutu (local name Rosita) made landfall in the coastal town of Dinapigue, Isabela province at 4am.
As Arab News went to press, there had been only one death and one person missing in connection with the typhoon.
In Isabela province, officials said about 12,000 people are now seeking temporary shelter in evacuation centers, while around 3,000 evacuees were reported in Cagayan province.
More than 2,000 passengers were also stranded in different sea ports in the country, according to the coast guard.
Thirty flights were canceled, resulting in 1,937 stranded passengers.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said an estimated 12 million people were living along the storm’s path.
Yutu crossed a similar path to that of super typhoon Mangkhut (local name Ompong), which hit the country in September, killing at least 80 people and causing almost P17 billion ($0.32 billion) of damage to agriculture.
In a radio interview, Dinapigue Mayor Reynaldo Derije said Yutu’s intense winds cut off electric and communication lines, while heavy rains caused flooding in low-lying villages.
Teodoro Sabiano, of the Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office, said Yutu seemed to have caused more destruction than Mangkhut in their town.
Photos and videos shared on social media and TV footage showed toppled trees and branches, as well as electric posts sprawled across roads; debris, and ripped-off tin roof sheets in areas hit by the storm. Even a big warehouse was not spared from damage. Some structures made of light materials were completely destroyed.
Sabiano said it was good that they were able to prepare for the impact of the typhoon, specially in evacuating thousands of residents in coastal villages.
Dinapigue local officials appealed to the national government for food, water and clothes.
In Benguet province, where landslides caused by Mangkhut in September killed at least 80 people, local officials said pre-emptive evacuation was enforced ahead of the storm’s arrival.
Meanwhile, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau warned that Yutu will raise landslide susceptibility in Northern Luzon, particularly in the mountainous Cordillera provinces, noting that soil in the area is already saturated with water from Mangkhut in September.
The MGB pointed out that not all landslides occur during a downpour. Some happen afterwards, so residents are advised to take the necessary precautions.
The weather state bureau said on Tuesday that Yutu has weakened after crossing the rugged terrain of Northern Luzon and is now heading toward the West Philippine Sea.
Stormy weather is still expected over the areas under storm warning signals No. 3 and 2, and travel by land is risky over these areas.
There will still be moderate-to-heavy rains directly associated with the typhoon over Northern and Central Luzon, thus residents in these areas, especially those living near river channels, in low-lying areas and mountainous areas, are advised to take appropriate action against possible flooding and landslides, and to coordinate with the local disaster risk reduction and management offices.
Storm surge of up to three meters is possible over the coastal areas of Ilocos Sur, La Union and Pangasinan.
Fisherfolk and those with small seacraft are advised not to venture out over the seaboards of areas with storm signals and the eastern and western seaboards of Southern Luzon.
As of late Tuesday afternoon, Yutu was moving west-northwest at 25 kph with maximum sustained winds of 125 kph near the center and gustiness of up to 190 kph.
Yutu exits the Philippine area of responsibility by today Wednesday.


Japan’s Okinawa votes on controversial US base move

Updated 29 min 4 sec ago
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Japan’s Okinawa votes on controversial US base move

  • Polls opened early on Sunday morning, with about 1.15 million Okinawans eligible to vote
  • Japan’s military alliance with the United States is seen as a key partnership

OKINAWA: Residents of Japan’s Okinawa were casting ballots Sunday in a closely watched referendum on the controversial relocation of a US military base to a remote part of the island.
The vote is seen as highly symbolic but is also non-binding, raising questions about what effect it will have, even if opponents of the move, including Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki, prevail.
The ballot asks residents whether they support a plan to reclaim land at a remote coastal site for the relocation of the Futenma base from its current location in a heavily-populated part of Okinawa.
It was initially planned as a yes-no vote on the move, but a “neither” option was added after several cities with close ties to the central government threatened to boycott the vote.
Polls opened early on Sunday morning, with about 1.15 million Okinawans eligible to vote. The Jiji Press agency reported around 20.5 percent of eligible voters had already cast ballots in early voting by Saturday.
“They are using a lot of tax money and manpower for this referendum, even though the result will not have any legal power. So, we thought that we should take this opportunity and think very carefully about this issue,” said Yuki Miyagaki, after casting her ballot at a local school.
“We usually shout no to the new base construction. This is a good opportunity to tell the government directly with concrete numbers: ‘No’. This is an important vote,” 32-year-old Narumi Haine said.
Although the referendum is not legally binding, “it is significant that people in Okinawa can express their will through the vote,” said Jun Shimabukuro, a professor at Ryukyu University in Okinawa.
“It can be a test to gauge if democracy is working in Japan,” Shimabukuro said before voting opened.
The relocation of Futenma to Nago, 50 kilometers away, was first agreed in 1996 as the US sought to calm local anger after US servicemen gang raped a local schoolgirl.
But the plan has long been stalled in part over local opposition.
The Futenma base has stoked tension with local residents over problems ranging from noise and military accidents to crime involving base residents.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government says the relocation will address those concerns, but many in Okinawa want the base relocated elsewhere in Japan.
They argue that the region bears a disproportionate burden when it comes to hosting US military troops in the country.
Okinawa accounts for less than one percent of Japan’s total land area, but hosts more than half of the approximately 47,000 American military personnel stationed in Japan.
Anti-base rallies have been staged daily in Okinawa since campaigning for the referendum began in mid-February.
But the vote has not stopped reclamation work at Nago, with construction workers continuing to shovel dirt into the ocean offshore with bulldozers.
“We hope the referendum will boost the momentum of our fight,” demonstrator Masaru Shiroma told AFP on Friday, as more than 100 fellow activists tried to block trucks entering the construction site on Friday.
“The government is making a fool out of Okinawa.”
The ballot closes at 8:00P.M. with exit polls expected soon after and official results from as early as midnight.
Okinawa’s governor is required to “respect” the vote’s outcome if at least a quarter of eligible voters — around 290,000 votes — vote for any one option.
Tamaki has urged residents to turn out and cast their “precious votes” in the poll.
An opinion poll by the Asahi Shimbun newspaper this week found 59 percent of people in Okinawa oppose the reclamation while 16 percent support it.
The survey also found 80 percent of respondents want Abe’s government to respect the results.
But there has been little sign Abe’s government will shift course if the vote goes against the move, with Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga saying there were no plans to halt the relocation regardless of the outcome.
Japan’s military alliance with the United States is seen as a key partnership, and Okinawa’s location near Taiwan has long been viewed as having huge strategic importance for US forward positioning in Asia.