The Philippines was watching nervously on Sunday as a tropical storm threatened typhoon-prone Leyte island that Pope Francis will visit this week.
The weather bureau said a low pressure area currently over the Pacific Ocean was on course to hit Leyte and could develop into a storm by the time it enters Philippine waters on Thursday.
Leyte was the province worst-hit by Super Typhoon Yolanda in November 2013, and suffered landslides and floods late last year wrought by tropical storm Senyang.
“Part of contingency planning are possible inclement scenarios . . . options are being developed,” Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said.
When asked if canceling the events on Leyte island on January 17 was an option, Coloma said: “It’s best to wait until the (weather disturbance) enters the Philippines before making specific contingency plans.”
In a best-case scenario, the low pressure area would turn northward and spare the country, but there is also an equal chance it will intensify into a storm, state weather forecaster Alvin Pura said.
“This may hit Eastern Visayas (where Leyte is located) and bring rains to the pope’s events,” he said.
Pura could not immediately say how much rain would fall if the storm developed and hit the island.
During the last week of 2014, Eastern Visayas was caught offguard when a storm bearing relatively weak winds brought heavy rains, triggering flashfloods and landslides that killed 54 people.
The pontiff, who arrives in the country on Thursday, will be in Leyte on Saturday to say Mass at the airport in Tacloban City, Leyte’s capital and ground zero for Yolanda, and have lunch with storm survivors in nearby Palo town.
The weather disturbance was unlikely to affect another Mass in Manila the day after, where millions are expected to attend, Pura said.
Partly cloudy skies and cool weather are expected in the nation’s capital on that day, he added.