Thousands of residents in Northern Mindanao, Caraga, and Eastern Visayas have evacuated their homes as typhoon “Pablo” (international name: Bopha) barreled closer to land Monday, authorities said.

Blanche Gobenciong, director of the Office of Civil Defense in Caraga, said 1,577 families or 7,885 persons have already evacuated in Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur, alone.

The “pre-emptive” evacuations started Monday morning as “Pablo” came closer to Hinatuan. Hundreds of people are also being evacuated from flood-prone areas in Tandag City and Bislig City, Gobenciong said.

“Pablo” is expected to be 30 kilometers of Hinatuan Tuesday morning, according to the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration.

The state weather bureau earlier predicted that “Pablo” will hit all provinces in Caraga, but announced Monday afternoon that the storm will strike an area between Surigao del Sur and Davao Oriental.

“Kahit pa kung saan ‘yan, kasi makikita natin kung gaano kabuo ‘yung bagyo, matatamaan pa rin kami dahil sa hangin at ulan. Hindi man mag-landfall dito, tatamaan pa rin kami ng heavy rain,” Gobenciong said.

“Pablo” has a 600-kilometer radius and packs winds of up to 175 kph and a gustiness of up to 210 kph, the strongest to hit the country this year, according to PAGASA.

Cagayan de Oro City, which felt the wrath of tropical storm “Sendong” (Washi) in 2011, started evacuating its residents around 1 p.m. and suspended classes so even students can prepare.

As of 3 p.m., more than 100 families in have been evacuated from flood-prone areas in Brgys. Carmen, Balulang, Consolacion, and Macasandig, the areas which “Sendong” ravaged, acting city police director Supt. Antonio Montalba said.

Policemen were ordered to help bring the evacuees to schools and gymnasiums located on higher grounds, he said.

Chief Supt. Gil Hitosis, Northern Mindanao regional police chief, said all police units in the region were also ordered to check the “usability” of rescue equipment, especially rubber boats.

Iligan City, which was also heavily devastated by “Sendong” like Cagayan de Oro City, is also in Northern Mindanao.

Gobenciong said evacuations in her region started in Hinatuan, a town that has several island-barangays (villages).

“‘Yung mga island-barangays nag-start sila na i-evacuate, dinala na sa mainland, magkakaroon din ng massive evacuation lalong-lalo na for residents along the coastal areas,” she said.

Classes in the entire Caraga region have also been suspended as many of the provinces were placed under storm warning Signal No. 3, she said.

Sea travel and fishing expeditions were also ordered cancelled, Gobenciong said.

Some 1,685 people, 19 vessels, 54 rolling cargoes, and 10 fishing vessels are now stranded in ports all over the country, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

Edgardo Ollet, chief of the NDRRMC’s operations center in Manila, said evacuations have also started in Surigao del Norte’s Siargao Island, the Dinagat Islands, as well as in Leyte and Samar of Eastern Visayas.

Capt. Dranreb Canto, spokesman of the Army’s 802nd Brigade, said pre-emptive evacuations were also conducted Monday in several barangays of St. Bernard, Southern Leyte, the site of a landslide that buried an entire village in 2006.

Among the areas evacuated were Brgys. Sug-angon, Nueva Ezperanza, Tabon Tabon, Libas, and Ayahag.

“Yun kasing mga barangays dun ay prone talaga sa pagpasok ng tubig galing sa taas,” Canto said.

Rey Gozon, director of the Office of Civil Defense in Eastern Visayas, said residents of the region have been advised to also make “personal” preparations.

“Mag-prepare na rin sila ng mga pagkain, at least man lang good for three days, damit, tulugan, at saka ‘yung members of the family na mayroong maintenance medicine, isama na din ‘yun sa kanilang preparation,” he said.

Fishermen were also advised not to venture out to sea to avoid maritime incidents.

“‘Yan kasi ‘yung mahirap na ginagawa natin na response tuwing may bagyo, ‘yung mga nawawalang fishermen, so sana makinig sila sa advise na binibigay sa kanila para maiwasan natin ‘yung untoward incidents,” he said.

On Monday, PAGASA placed the provinces of Surigao del Sur, Surigao del Norte, Siargao, the Dinagat Islands, Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, and Davao del Oriental under storm warning Signal No. 3.

Signal No. 2 was hoisted in Southern Leyte, Bohol, Camiguin, Misamis Oriental, Bukidnon, Davao del Norte, and Compostela Valley.

Signal No. 1 was raised in Cuyo Island, Biliran, Leyte, Eastern Samar, Samar, Aklan, Capiz, Iloilo, Guimaras, Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental, Cebu, Siquijor, the entire Zamboanga Peninsula, Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, Davao del Sur, North Cotabato, and Maguindanao. (John Roson)

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