By David Brennan, newsweek.com
Around 5 million people are in the path of the super typhoon’s 180-mph winds.
September 14, 2018
As the U.S. braces for the onslaught of Hurricane Florence, East Asia is facing down super Typhoon Mangkhut, which is tearing toward the Philippines with wind speeds of up to 180 mph—significantly stronger than the peak of around 140 mph recorded for Florence.
The typhoon is expected to make landfall at the northern end of the country’s main island of Luzon, the BBC reported, before passing into the South China Sea and toward the Chinese coast.
About 5 million people are directly in Mangkhut’s path, which is currently approximately 560 miles wide. Thus far, 10,000 people across three regions have been evacuated, The Guardian said. Some 40.8 million people were expected to be affected by the time the storm—which takes its name from a Thai word for the mangosteen fruit—passes.
Flights have been canceled, schools closed and the army put on standby to help relief-effort groups. Authorities said the storm, known locally as “Ompong” and equivalent to a Category 5 hurricane, poses a “considerable threat” even as it slows before making landfall. It is expected to drop to a Category 4 event by late Friday.
The Pacific islands of Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands have already suffered its onslaught. Guam’s streets were flooded, trees were torn down and power cut. Government authorities are now attempting to clear debris and help those who were displaced by the typhoon.
Officials warned that storm surges could grow as high as 23 feet, while heavy rains will likely spark deadly landslides and flash floods. The size of the storm is comparable to Typhoon Haiyan, which killed at least 7,300 Filipinos and displaced another 5 million in 2013.
In China, authorities raised the storm alert to yellow, the second-highest spot on the four-color warning system. The superstorm is expected to pass within 62 miles of Hong Kong on Sunday morning and hit the country later that day or early Monday.
Civil defense head Ricardo Jalad said that around 4.2 million people—of whom just under 1 million live in poverty—are vulnerable to the destructive effects of the storm’s eye, which is roughly 78 miles wide. Approximately 48,000 houses in Cagayan, Isabela province and other outlying regions are made of cheap materials and could be smashed by the winds.
President Rodrigo Duterte has asked cabinet members from the north of the country to oversee disaster relief programs but said it was too early to ask for foreign aid. “It would depend on the severity of the crisis,” he told reporters. “If it flattens everything, maybe we need to have some help.”
With the start of the rice and corn harvest season approaching, farmers are scrambling to save as much of their crops as possible. The country is already struggling with rice shortages, and Mangkhut is expected to exacerbate the situation.
Mangkhut is the 15th storm to hit the archipelago nation so far this year. An average year would see around 20 such events hit the Philippines, the BBC said.