Saturday Sep 15, 2018
Tuguegarao, Philippines: Super Typhoon Mangkhut slammed into the northern Philippines on Saturday with violent winds and torrential rains as authorities warned millions in its path of heavy destruction.
The massive storm, which forecasters have called the strongest typhoon this year, made landfall on the island of Luzon with gusts of up 255 kilometers (160 miles) per hour.
"The eye of the typhoon has made landfall... as of 1:40 am (1740 Friday GMT)," said Gener Quitlong, a forecaster with state weather service PAGASA.
Ahead of the storm´s arrival the weather service raised a "signal four" alert, the second-highest storm warning, for six provinces in Luzon´s north.
They are squarely in the path of the massive storm, which is about 900 kilometers wide, as it roars west across the Pacific.
"It is important for our countrymen to know that we have raised signal four," forecaster Loriedin de la Cruz said during a televised safety briefing.
A signal four alert was issued for Super Typhoon Haiyan, which is the country´s deadliest on record. It left more than 7,350 people dead or missing across the central Philippines in November 2013.
In the far northern Philippines on Saturday, there were heavy rains and gusts from the storm that forecasters said is the most powerful of 2018.
"Among all the typhoons this year, this one (Mangkhut) is the strongest," Japan Meteorological Agency forecaster Hiroshi Ishihara told AFP.
"This is a violent typhoon. It has the strongest sustained wind (among the typhoons of this year)", he added.
Farmers in the region, which produces a significant portion of the Philippines´ corn and rice, were rushing to bring in crops that could be destroyed by flooding.
At least four million people are directly in Mangkhut´s path, which is predicted to move on to China´s heavily populated southern coast this weekend.
"They (authorities) said this typhoon is twice as strong as the last typhoon, that´s why we are terrified," Myrna Parallag, 53, told AFP after fleeing her home in the northern Philippines.
"We learned our lesson last time. The water reached our roof," she said, referring to when her family rode out a typhoon at home in 2016.
An average of 20 typhoons and storms lash the Philippines each year, killing hundreds of people and leaving millions in near-perpetual poverty.
Poor communities reliant on fishing are some of the most vulnerable to fierce typhoon winds and the storm surges that pound the coast.
"The rains will be strong and the winds are no joke... We may have a storm surge that could reach four storeys high," Michael Conag, a spokesman for local civil defence authorities, told AFP.
Hong Kong is also in Mangkhut´s sights and preparations there were already underway Friday, though the storm was not expected to hit until Sunday.
The Hong Kong Observatory warned that the massive storm will bring "significantly deteriorating weather" to the city on Sunday and warned residents to take precautions.
Taiwan´s central weather bureau predicted that Mangkhut would be nearest to the island on Saturday, bringing heavy rains to its southern and eastern parts although it was unlikely to make a direct hit.