By Christopher Lloyd T. Caliwan
The state weather bureau said Thursday tropical storm “Ofel” gained strength and also accelerated as it crossed the southern part of Mindoro Island toward the West Philippine Sea and Vietnam.
Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration forecaster Jori Loiz said that as of 10 a.m. Thursday, TS Ofel was located at 40 kilometers west of Mamburao, Occidental Mindoro (13.1°N, 120.3°E) and increased its wind strength from 65 kilometers per hour (kph) to 75 kph while its gustiness also rose from 80 kph to 90 kph.
Tropical storm Ofel is forecast to move west-northwest at 22 kph, and with its present speed and direction, Loiz said the tropical storm may exit the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR) by Friday afternoon or evening and will be heading toward Vietnam.
Loiz added that Ofel has a high chance to intensify into typhoon once it emerges over the West Philippine sea.
Meanwhile, six areas in Southern Luzon remain under public storm warning signal No. 2. These are Batangas, Lubang Island, Marinduque, Occidental Mindoro, Oriental Mindoro and Romblon which are expected to experience 61 to 100 kph winds within the next 24 hours.
Storm signal No. 1 (30-60 kph winds) is hoisted over nine areas — Metro Manila, Bataan, southern Quezon, Burias Island, Masbate, Aklan, Capiz, Iloilo and Calamian Group of Islands.
Residents in low-lying and mountainous areas under public storm warning signal Nos. 2 and 1 are alerted against possible flash floods and landslides.
Likewise, those living in coastal areas under public storm warning signal No. 2 are alerted against big waves or storm surges.
Loiz said that storm signals in some areas in Luzon and Visayas had been lifted.
PAGASA said that fishing boats and other small seacraft are advised not to venture out into the seaboards of Luzon and over the eastern seaboard of Central Luzon due to the combined effects of storm Ofel and the surge of the northeast monsoon.