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Evacuations start as 'Pablo' moves closer to Mindanao

Satellite image of typhoon "Pablo" (international name Bopha) as of 10:30 a.m. Monday, Dec. 3, 2012. Image from PAGASA

MANILA, Philippines - Preemptive evacuations have been ordered in areas in Mindanao that are expected to be hit by typhoon "Pablo" (international name Bopha), which was forecast to make landfall on Tuesday morning over Surigao del Sur.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) placed all its units in Mindanao and other parts of the country, particularly in Palawan and Visayas provinces, on red alert to prepare for the typhoon, which had been categorized by US meteorologists as a super typhoon.

Reports said that additional policemen have been dispatched to Surigao provinces to convince residents in high-risk areas to evacuate. Reports said that several residents continue to refuse to leave their homes despite the anticipated devastation that may be brought by the typhoon.

Preparations for the typhoon was heavier in Caraga, where several provinces are included in the path of the typhoon when it starts crossing land.

Director Blanchie Gobenciong, Office of Civil Defense (OCD) director in Caraga, said that alongside the preemptive evacuation are the pre-positioning of rescue teams and equipment in critical areas in the region.

“Aside from Hinatuan town, residents along coastal municipalities in the provinces of Surigao del Sur, Surigao del Norte, Siargo in Dinagat, Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur and Davao Oriental, have already evacuated,” Gobenciong said.

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Preemptive evacuations were also conducted along coastal municipalities of Samar and Leyte, which are also included in the list of provinces that are in Pablo’s path.

“All these areas where preemptive evacuations were conducted are all facing the Pacific Ocean,” Gobenciong said.

Gobenciong said that as part of their ongoing preparation is the assumption that wide areas in Caraga would be without electricity as the typhoon is expected to topple electricity posts and cut off power lines during its onslaught.

24-hour lead time

The Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said that residents have a lead time of at least 24 hours to leave areas that are projected to be hardest hit by the typhoon.

As of 10 a.m., the eye of the typhoon was estimated at 550 kilometers southeast of Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur. It has maintained its strength, packing maximum sustained winds of 175 kilometers per hour and gusts of up to 210 kph.

The typhoon was moving west northwest at a speed of 24 kph.

PAGASA weather forecaster Jeri Loiz said that the typhoon was expected to make landfall over Hinatuan town on Tuesday morning.

After slamming into Surigao del Sur, the typhoon was expected to cross over Agusan provinces, Misamis Oriental and Camiguin. By Tuesday night, the typhoon was expected to hover over Bohol provinces and then continue to cross the Visayas through Cebu, Negros provinces and Panay until Wednesday.

Loiz said that the storm will bring "heavy to intense" rains over provinces near its center, particularly areas in Northern Mindanao. It will also bring strong winds as it crosses land.

He said that the storm will grow weaker as it crosses Mindanao and Visayas provinces. Rains are also expected over Metro Manila and nearby provinces in Luzon.

The storm was expected to exit to the West Philippine Sea through Palawan province by Thursday.

Public storm warning signal No. 3 has been hoisted over Surigao del Sur, Surigao del Norte, Siargao, Dinagat, Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur and Davao Oriental. Signal No. 2 is raised over Southern Leyte, Bohol, Camiguin, Misamis Oriental, Bukidnon, Davao del Norte and Compostela Valley.

Signal No. 1 has also been declared over Cuyo Island, Eastern Samar, Western Samar, Leyte, Biliran, Aklan, Capiz, Antique, Iloilo, Guimaras, Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental, Cebu, Siquijor, Zamboanga Sibugay, Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur, Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, Davao del Sur, North Cotabato and Maguindanao.

Loiz said that residents living along coastal areas should be on alert for storm surge that may be spawned by the typhoon's strong winds. Residents living in low-lying areas and near mountain slopes should be on alert against flashfloods and landslides. Jaime Laude

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