STA ANA, Cagayan -- (UPDATE) Residents of this coastal town wrapped babies in blankets and carried their belongings in pails, moving by foot to makeshift shelters, as strong winds on Friday warned of the arrival of Typhoon Ompong (Mangkhut).
More people were evacuated in Luzon and storm signals were raised as authorities braced for the strongest storm so far this year, which could trigger floods and storm surges.
Ompong is expected to slam into Isabela province between 5 a.m. to 8 a.m. Saturday and will head towards the Ilocos provinces, before leaving the Philippine Area of Responsibility by Sunday, said PAGASA forecaster Chris Perez.
At 10 a.m. Friday, the eye of the typhoon was located 595 kilometers southeast of Tuguegarao City, packing maximum sustained winds of 205 kph with 255 kph gusts, the weather bureau said.
President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday deployed some Cabinet executives to Luzon areas on Ompong's path and assured the public that at least P1.7 billion in "quick response" funds were on standby.
Signal number 3, the third highest in a five-step scale was raised over Cagayan, Babuyan, Apayao, Abra, Kalinga, Mountain Province, Ifugao, Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino, northern Aurora and Isabela where winds of at least 100 to 185 kph could whip storm surges PAGASA said.
In this coastal town, Mayor Darwin Tobias oversaw an evacuation and talked fishermen out of heading out to sea on the eve of Ompong's arrival.
In Ilocos Norte province, residents were evacuated as early as Thursday and farmers harvested rice one week ahead of schedule to avoid destruction from the storm.
In upland La Trinidad, Benguet, 21 families were forcibly evacuated Thursday.
Across Luzon, many have tied their roofs down and reinforced their glass windows with wooden planks.
Signal number 2 was raised over Batanes, Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union, Benguet, Pangasinan, Tarlac, Nueva Ecija, southern Aurora and northern Zambales.
Signal number 1 was hoisted over southern Zambales, Pampanga, Bulacan, Bataan, Rizal, Metro Manila, Cavite, Batangas, Laguna, Quezon including Polillo Islands, northern Occidental Mindoro including Lubang Island, northern Oriental Mindoro, Masbate, Marinduque, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Catanduanes, Albay, Sorsogon, Burias and Ticao Islands and Northern Samar.
Classes have been suspended until Saturday in many areas. Several flights were also cancelled.
-- reports from Jeff Canoy and Raphael Bosano ABS-CBN News