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MAASIN CITY, Southern Leyte (PIA)  --  By all indications, super typhoon “Pablo” literally and figuratively skirted this city and province, leaving only ordinary rains much like a low pressure area would bring sans strong winds. 

In its Severe Weather Bulletin number 7 issued 4 in the morning today, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (Pag-asa) announced that Pablo has made landfall over Baganga, Davao Oriental, its eye located at 40 kilometers east of the eastern coast of Davao Oriental, at coordinates 7.6 degrees north, 126.9 degrees east. 

It is moving in a westward direction at a speed of 26 kilometers per hour (kph). 

The latest storm movement offered a sigh of relief compared with yesterday’s forecast track, which had Pablo hitting land at about this time off Hinatuan Island in Surigao del Sur, a path that would have hit the province smack on. 

The weather bureau still placed Southern Leyte under storm signal number 3, along with Bohol, Negros Oriental, Siquijor, and Bantayan, Cebu, due to the massive wingspan of rains reaching 600 kilometers from Pablo’s center, said Manny Gonzales, weather forecaster at Pagasa-Maasin. 

Tropical cyclone Pablo walloped center winds at 175 kph and gustiness of over 200 kph, making it the most potentially destructive storm to hit the country in this decade. 

Despite Pablo’s departing posture, City Mayor Maloney Samaco, who had declared no classes in all levels and no work for city hall employees except those involve in disaster and rescue operation, advised people not to let their guard down, saying the destruction usually happened as soon as “Habagat” or southwest monsoon winds take over. 

For the rest of the province, Gov. Damian Mercado appealed to those living in critical areas to follow the warnings of their local disaster bodies down to the barangay, under pain of being forcefully evicted by Police once the go signal for evacuation remained unheeded. 

Mercado assured residents voluntarily doing a pre-emptive evacuation and those who will be actually evacuating in various identified shelters that the provincial social welfare office has enough supply of relief goods ready for distribution. 

National roads around the province still remained passable, while fieldmen and equipment were on standby for any eventualities, said Assistant District Engineer (ADE) Manolo Rojas in a text message to the Philippine Information Agency (PIA). 

Meanwhile, Seawoman Germaine Montesar of the Southern Leyte Coast Guard told PIA by phone that at Liloan ferry terminal four vessels, 10 motor boats, and one fishing boat were anchored, not allowed to go, and 33 passengers and 10 rolling cargoes were stranded. 

At Benit, San Ricardo ferry terminal no ships were moored but there were 105 passengers for Lipata, Surigao stranded since yesterday, as well as 53 rolling cargoes, Monstesar said.  (mmp/PIA8-Southern Leyte)