ILOILO City – The cancellation of boat trips as part of preparations for tropical depression “Usman” stranded 903 people in various Panay Island seaports.
Western Visayas is along the path of “Usman” that is forecast to plow through the islands of Leyte, Cebu, Panay, and Masbate before heading to the Sulu Sea and Palawan Island on New Year’s Eve.
Yesterday morning, Panay Island and northern Negros Occidental province were placed under storm signal No. 1 by the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa).
According to Lieutenant Commander Ramil Palabrica, spokesperson of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) in Region 6, also stranded were 92 rolling cargoes.
There were no reports of stranded passengers in Guimaras and Antique provinces as of this writing.
The coastguard ordered the cancellation of seagoing vessels on Thursday yet except motorboats plying two routes: Iloilo City to Guimaras and vice versa, and Caticlan (in Malay, Aklan) to Boracay Island and vice versa.
The short distances between Caticlan and Boracay and between Iloilo City and Guimaras were cited as reason for this exemption.
Palabrica, however, clarified that motorboat trips from Iloilo City to Guimaras and vice versa were only between 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.
“Boracay may biyahe man sunrise to sundown because special areas sila,” said Palabrica.
Stranded people were being assisted by the PCG, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Office of Civil Defense, Philippine Red Cross, and local government units concerned, he added.
According to the 5 p.m. weather bulletin of Pagasa yesterday, “Usman” continued to move erratically and almost stationary over the Philippine Sea.
The center of “Usman” was spotted at 285 kilometers East of Guiuan, Eastern Samar, at around 4 p.m. as it maintained winds of 55 kilometers per hour (kph) near the center and gusts of up to 65 kph.
Pagasa said “Usman” could make a landfall over Eastern Samar between Friday night or Saturday early morning, while it may still exit the Philippine area of responsibility between Sunday evening (Dec. 30) and Monday morning (Dec. 31)./PN