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MANILA, Philippines - (UPDATE 4 -- 6:52 p.m.) Tropical storm "Lawin" continued to gain strength, prompting the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration to place Eastern Samar under public storm warning signal number 1.
In its 5 p.m. bulletin, PAGASA said "Lawin" was last estimated 560 kilometers east of Catarman, Northern Samar packing maximum sustained winds of 85 kilometers per hour near the center and gustiness of up to 100 kph.
"Lawin" slowed down and was moving west southwest 9 kph.
Moderate to heavy rains are expected in areas within the storm's 600 km diameter.
"Lawin" is expected to be 370 km east of Catarman, Northern Samar by Saturday afternoon.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council went on "red alert" Friday morning in anticipation of the storm.
Gener Quitlong, PAGASA forecaster, said Lawin may make landfall as long as a high pressure area near Japan exists since it will cause Lawin to continue in its westward direction, directly heading to Luzon.
Once the high pressure is gone, Lawin may move north and its center will not hover over land or make landfall.
But according to the US-based Joint Typhoon Warning Center, Lawin will skip land but will intensify further to typhoon status by Saturday.
Lawin is the 12th storm to visit the country this year and could be the first to directly hit a large land area.