MANILA, Philippines – (2nd UPDATE) Typhoon "Bopha" continues to gain strength as it approaches the country and is expected to enter the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR) around 8 p.m. Sunday, at which point it will be renamed "Pablo."
"Bopha" is expected to affect Mindanao and Visayas, as well as areas in Southern Tagalog and Metro Manila, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said Sunday.
PAGASA weather division chief Robert Sawi said "Bopha" will bring rains in parts of Metro Manila on Friday, when the typhoon is likely to weaken or dissipate.
"Further weakening is expected or possible dissipation by Friday. However, it will bring rains in southern Tagalog region including NCR," he said in a press conference.
"Pablo" is expected to make landfall over Surigao del Norte on Tuesday morning. It was last seen 970 kilometers east of Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur, bearing maximum sustained winds of 185 kilometers per hour with gustiness of 220 kph.
Sawi said that floods and landslides are possible in Surigao, Davao, Compostela Valley, Misamis, Bukidnon, Lanao, Zamboanga, Leyte, Cebu, Bohol, Negros, Panay and Mindoro.
The typhoon will cross the Visayas islands on Wednesday towards Panay, northern Palawan and Mindoro, and over the South Philippine Sea on Thursday as it gradually weakens, the PAGASA weather division chief added.
'Stronger than Sendong'
Earlier, PAGASA said there is a big possibility that "Bopha" will become a super typhoon when it enters the PAR and may be even stronger than "Sendong," which caused massive destruction in Mindanao in December last year.
"Ang Sendong noong pumasok, 65 kph lang siya, pero ito 165 (kph) na ngayon," said PAGASA weather forecaster Jori Loiz.
Because of this, areas that are expected to be hit by "Bopha" are already preparing for the typhoon.
The Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council in Bicol, for instance, has created a group called "Task Force Pablo." Local officials called for an emergency meeting to prepare for the possible onslaught of the storm, with more than 350,000 residents expected to be evacuated. Hospitals in the province are also on code white.
In Tacloban City, the local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council has been alerted. Residents of Babatngon, Leyte, where a landslide occurred during Typhoon Ofel, and are ready to evacuate.
In Cagayan de Oro, pre-emptive evacuation plans are already in place as there are an estimated 15,000 families who are vulnerable in case of flooding.
Meanwhile, the National Food Authority and the Department of Social Welfare and Development have readied relief goods and supplies for those who may be affected by the storm.
PAGASA administrator Dr. Nathaniel Servando said "Pablo" will be the 16th typhoon to enter the PAR this year. -- With reports from ANC, DZMM; Primy Cane, ABS-CBN News Northern Mindanao; Jenette Rueda, ABS-CBN News Tacloban