Super Typhoon Mangkhut makes landfall in the Philippines


More than four million people were at risk of flooding, power cuts and wind damage on Saturday as Typhoon Mangkhut barrelled into the Philippines.

Super Typhoon Mangkhut is hurtling through the Pacific, boasting maximum wind speeds of 180 miles per hour that threaten millions of people across Asia in what is estimated to be one of the strongest systems on record.

Thousands of people fled their homes in high-risk areas ahead of the storm's arrival because of major flooding and landslide risks.

Expect "severe disruptions" at Hong Kong International Airport as Typhoon Mangkhut approaches the city this weekend, said Cathay Pacific in a travel advisory on Saturday (Sep 15).

Super Typhoon Mangkhut, which is a category 5 storm, moved in from the Pacific striking the northern Luzon island overnight.

More than 5 million people are at risk from the storm, which the Hawaii-based Joint Typhoon Warning Center categorises as a super typhoon with gusts equivalent to a category 5 Atlantic hurricane.

"Almost all of the buildings here have been damaged, the roofs were blown away", Rogelio Sending, a government official in Tuguegarao, the capital of Cagayan, told Reuters. Cars shook as gusts pummeled a parking lot.

According to JTWC, Mangkhut is packing maximum sustained winds of 115 knots, or 212 kilometers (130 miles) per hour.

Government forecaster Rene Paciente said that even if the typhoon weakened slightly after slamming ashore, its winds would remain very destructive. "You can't stand, you can't even crawl against that wind", reported Al Jazeera. She tells NPR, "The thing is, we really learned a lot from the Haiyan experience".

Hundreds of thousands of people could be left without food, shelter and water - this is going to put a real strain on everyone affected.

"If we didn't, all of us would be dead", Abedes said.

Rapid response teams were prepared to join the air force on search and rescue missions as civil defense teams scoured areas in the path of Mangkhut, which felled trees and pulled down lines of electricity poles.

Storm chaser James Reynolds, who was in a hotel in Santa Ana, in Cagayan, when the storm hit, described how the winds ripped through the hotel's interior, leaving it uninhabitable. The threat to agriculture comes as the Philippines tries to cope with rice shortages.

If the typhoon stays its course, Mangkhut could cause about $120 billion in damage in China and Hong Kong - said Chuck Watson, a disaster modeler with Enki Research in Savannah, Georgia.

"Any big storm going into the Hong Kong area, talk about a target-rich environment". The Hong Kong Observatory warned it would bring "significantly deteriorating weather" on Sunday and warned residents to take precautions. More than 3,000 shelters have been set up in the southern Guangdong province, and more than 100,000 residents and tourists have either been moved to safety or sent home.

In nearby Fujian province, 51,000 people were evacuated from fishing boats and around 11,000 vessels returned to port on Saturday morning.

Northern Luzon was also devastated in 2016 by Super Typhoon Haima - known as Lawin locally - with 14,000 houses destroyed and 50,000 damaged, according to CNN Philippines.

Saving lives was paramount and it was too soon to know the extent of Mangkhut's devastation, said Francis Tolentino, an adviser to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and disaster response coordinator.