MANILA - Local officials prepared rescue boats while residents packed food and clothes as tropical storm Vinta neared Mindanao on Thursday, threatening to dump rains on the region during the Christmas weekend.
Vinta is expected to hit land in the Davao-Caraga region in the southeast Thursday evening or Friday morning, less than a week after another storm, Urduja, triggered floods and landslides in the Visayas, leaving at least 43 people killed and dozens others missing.
The approaching storm is also expected to bring rains to the Visayas while the tail-end of a cold front will bring rains to Luzon, according to weather bureau PAGASA.
In Davao City, resident Dina Padano packed her bag with food, important documents and clothes for her children so her family could flee to safer ground at a moment's notice.
Padano said she feared a repeat of the floods that swamped their home during the onslaught of typhoon Sendong, which struck Northern Mindanao and killed over 950 people before Christmas in 2011.
Officers of Davao city's 911 hotline prepared pump boats, scuba gear and protective suits. Hunched in front of giant screens connected to the city's surveillance cameras, they also monitored the level of rivers and received updates from barangay officials.
"Prepared na talaga ang tao natin. Mayroon na ring advise ang ating city disaster na lahat ng barangay, lalo na kapag flood prone ay laging alerto," Fraz Irag, operations head of the Office of Civil Defense-Northern Mindanao, told ABS-CBN News.
(Our residents are already prepared. Our city disaster office also advised all villages, especially flood-prone ones, to be on alert.)
Vinta was located 510 kilometers east of Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur at 4 a.m. Thursday and was expected to cross Mindanao to the southern tip of Palawan from Friday until Christmas Eve, before leaving the Philippine Area of Responsibility on Christmas Day, PAGASA said.
The storm is expected to make landfall over the Caraga-Davao region between Thursday evening and Friday morning, PAGASA said.
The national disaster agency has coordinated with its regional office to make sure all preparations were in place and emergency lines were working, said the agency's spokesperson Romina Marasigan.
Marasaigan landslide-prone areas were being identified to determine the need for evacuation.
Visit the ABS-CBN Weather Center for the latest weather updates.