Breakwater protected fishermen from storm surges

Fishermen said the Port Irene Breakwater Project in Barangay Casambalangan, Santa  Ana, Cagayan, protected them from storm surges caused by Typhoon Ineng (international code name Goni) from August 19 to 22.

The typhoon, with maximum sustained winds of 180 kilometers per hour and gustiness of 215 kph, caused waves of up to 14 meters at open sea and storm surges of up to 2.5 meters in height in the northern part of Cagayan, according to a weather bulletin issued by the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration.

Joyce Jayme-Calimag, public relations chief of the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (Ceza), said Port Irene, as well as the coastal communities in Barangay Casambalangan nearest to the port, was protected by the breakwater, which absorbed most of the waves’ impact.

Calimag said the fishermen expressed their gratitude because of the breakwater, which has been protecting them from the effects of weather disasters and consequences of strong tidal surges.

“If the breakwater was not there, the typhoon might have destroyed our homes and community, and might have left casualties among our families,” said Rema Manera, a 50-year-old village human-rights officer and resident of Casambalangan coastline.

The Port Irene Breakwater Project is a kilometer-long structure that protects the Santa Ana coastline from the waves. Santa   Ana, Cagayan, at the northeastern tip of Luzon on the open sea of Babuyan Channel, a typhoon-prone area with high waves and destructive tidal surges.

The Ceza built the Port Irene Breakwater Project as a part of its thrust in making the Cagayan Special Economic Zone and Freeport in Santa Ana, Cagayan, a major economic hub in the northeastern part of Luzon.

The force of Ineng created at least 6 meters of water mass, which exploded upon contact with the breakwater and pushed water about 10 to 15 meters above sea level.

Boyet Manera, a 59-year-old fisherman, said he witnessed the force of Ineng.  “I was on the seaside and I could not see the port because of the large waves,” he said.

Famila M. de la Cruz, a 58-year-old barangay council member of Casambalangan, said some 1,000 people were in the coastline of the village during the onslaught of the typhoon.

“About 1,000 people would have drowned and died because of the storm surges, if not for the breakwater which protected our community from the giant waves,” de la Cruz said in the vernacular.

The breakwater project has suffered minor damage from the typhoon, according to Engr. Renato del Rosario, who is the assistant vice president for construction of Santa Elena Construction and Development Corp., the project contractor.

The prolonged exposure of the breakwater structure to the destructive effect of storm surge caused the armour rocks to move from station 0+250 to station 1+000 and created an opening at the top level of the structure.

“Typhoon Ineng caused minor damage, which covers some 500 meters of Port Irene Breakwater’s crown [above sea level surface], although the whole structure still remains substantially intact,” del Rosario said. “The damage was brought by storm surges that were as high as 14 meters, or a five-story building. Rehabilitation works will be completed within a period of six to 10 months at no cost to Ceza or the government,” he added.

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