MANILA — Emergency response teams backed by the Philippine police and military scrambled on Saturday to prepare for Typhoon Goni, which officials expect to be the strongest storm to hit the country this year.
Goni, which as of Saturday afternoon had sustained winds of 135 miles per hour at its center and gusts of 165 miles per hour, is expected to weaken slightly before making landfall on Sunday morning in the southern part of Luzon, the country’s most populated island, Philippine officials said. Earlier Saturday, the Joint Typhoon Warning Center categorized the storm as a super typhoon.
The eye of the storm — which Philippine officials are calling Typhoon Rolly under their separate naming system — was expected to pass near Metro Manila, the capital region, which is home to more than 24 million people.
“We are forecasting widespread destruction even if this does not turn out to become a super typhoon,” Ricardo Jalad, the chief of the government’s National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, said Saturday on state television.
Goni will be the 18th typhoon to strike the Philippines this year. It is arriving just days after Typhoon Molave, which was weaker, tore across the country, dumping heavy rains and causing significant flooding. Molave killed 22 people and forced the evacuation of tens of thousands before moving on to Vietnam, where it caused deadly landslides.
Mr. Jalad said evacuations in areas threatened by Goni had been underway since Friday. He said local officials could order forced evacuations if necessary.
“If they see that their constituents are facing danger, they are empowered to carry out forced evacuations with the help of the Philippine National Police and other uniformed services,” Mr. Jalad said. He said there had been “avoidable casualties” during Typhoon Molave because some people had ignored warnings to stay indoors.
The Philippine Red Cross has placed rescue vehicles, first aid volunteers and emergency response teams in areas across Luzon that are likely to be affected by the typhoon.
“Three storms have consecutively affected the country this month alone, and now a potential super typhoon is heading our way,” said Senator Richard Gordon, the Red Cross chairman. “We are determined to do all we can to help these communities prepare for the oncoming storm,” he said.
He said the disasters had complicated the country’s response to Covid-19, which has infected more than 370,000 people in the country and killed 7,185. Evacuation centers can make social distancing more challenging than usual.
The Philippine military said it had deployed emergency response field units in areas expected to be hit by the typhoon, which could unleash heavy to intense rains over a large swath of Luzon, including Metro Manila.
The Philippines is hit by at least 20 tropical storms and typhoons every year, some of them deadly. Thousands were killed in November 2013 when Super Typhoon Haiyan tore through the central Philippines.