MANILA - Residents in the path of tropical depression Usman prepared to leave for makeshift shelters on Thursday as the country's potential last storm this year crept closer to its central islands.
Usman was forecast to hit eastern Samar on Friday, 4 days before New Year, bringing moderate to heavy rains that could spawn floods and landslides. It may strengthen into a tropical storm before making landfall, state weather bureau PAGASA warned.
In the island province of Biliran, housewife Maricel Latagan packed clothes for her 3 children, fearing Usman could damage her house swamped by a storm during last year's Christmas holidays.
"Naleksiyon kami kaya safety muna. 'Pag sinabi na likas, lilikas kami," she told ABS-CBN News.
(We've learned to put safety first. If we're told to evacuate, we will evacuate.)
At least 200 were killed when back-to-back storms Urduja and Vinta triggered floods and landslides in the Visayas and Mindanao days before Christmas last year.
The local government in the neighboring coastal town of Tacloban, Leyte has placed its rescue equipment on standby for Usman's onslaught.
Authorities may order a preemptive evacuation of residents in Tacloban and parts of Eastern Samar later Thursday, said national disaster agency spokesperson Edgar Posadas.
The agency already raised a heightened alert status, he said.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development, meanwhile, allotted P1.2 billion to respond to the storm.
An average of 20 typhoons and storms lash the Philippines each year, killing hundreds of people and leaving millions in near-perpetual poverty.
The country's deadliest on record is Super Typhoon Yolanda, which left more than 7,350 people dead or missing across the central Philippines in November 2013.
Visit the ABS-CBN Weather Center for the latest weather updates.
With reports from Jenette Fariola-Ruedas, Ranulfo Docdocan and Zhander Cayabyab, ABS-CBN News