Typhoon Bopha heading for southern Philippines

(CNN) - A powerful typhoon is bearing down on the southern Philippines, threatening to bring fresh destruction to a country that has suffered a series of severe weather-related disasters in the past year.

Typhoon Bopha was heading toward the large Philippine island of Mindanao on Monday, almost a year after a tropical storm devastated areas on the island's north coast, leaving more than 1,200 people dead.

With wind gusts as strong as 210 kph (130 mph), Bopha is expected to make landfall Tuesday morning on Mindanao's northeast coast, according to the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration.

The agency warned that the typhoon, known locally as Pablo, could cause flash floods and landslides in mountainous and low-lying areas, and big waves and storm surges along coastlines.

It advised seven provinces on Mindanao to prepare for likely damage from winds as strong as 185 kph (115 mph), including the destruction of homes made of light materials, uprooting of large trees and disruption of power supplies.

Palau, a tiny island nation roughly 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) east of Mindanao, had a close shave with Bopha as the typhoon churned past, catching some outlying parts of the archipelago.

"It was headed right toward Palau", said Derek Williams, a meteorologist for the U.S. National Weather Service in Guam. But at the last minute, "it just turned to the west and fortunately went south of them," he said.

"I really think they escaped the brunt of the storm," Williams said in an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, noting that Palau doesn't usually get hit by strong typhoons.

Bopha nonetheless brought down a lot of trees and caused widespread power outages in Palau, according to Williams.

"The fast movement of the system really prevented a lot of flooding," he said. "I think probably only a few inches of rain fell, so that's certainly good news, because Palau itself is susceptible to mudslides."

The looming threat to Mindanao comes just weeks ahead of the first anniversary of the arrival over the island of Tropical Storm Washi, whose heavy rains set off flash floods in the middle of the night that swept away entire villages.

More than 1,200 people died and hundreds of thousands were left homeless, prompting a humanitarian crisis.

Stormy weather in recent months has caused death and destruction in other areas of the Philippines, where poor infrastructure leaves many communities highly vulnerable.

Severe flooding in the region of the capital, Manila, killed more than 80 people in August. And Tropical Cyclone Son-Tinh left at least 27 people dead after sweeping across the central Philippines in October.

CNN's Jethro Mullen reported from Hong Kong.

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