Philippines 'super typhoon' Mangkhut: Storm threatens 43 million people

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A SUPER typhoon that has already dwarfed Hurricane Florence is set to break records as it tears towards its target with up to 43 million people in the firing line.

AN “extremely dangerous” super typhoon predicted to be the one of the strongest systems on record is tearing towards Hong Kong and the Philippines with up to 43 million people in the firing line.


Bureau of Meteorology Australia tropical climatologist Greg Browning told Typhoon Mangkhut was equivalent to a Category 5 severe tropical cyclone and boasted maximum sustained winds of 205kph and gusts up to 285kph. It’s “significantly stronger” than Hurricane Florence which is simultaneously hurtling towards the US as North Carolina locals evacuate the region in preparation for the onslaught.

“(Mangkhut is) relatively rare at the top of the severe scale,” Mr Browning said.

“It’s extremely dangerous as it’s a very large system with very strong winds and a potential storm surge over a large distance.

“There will be very heavy rainfall associated with it which has potential to cause widespread damage.”

Mr Browning said Typhoon Mangkhut was the most powerful storm system to have developed on Earth this year but that it wasn’t the strongest since records began in 1946, as has been reported internationally. Typhoon Haiyan - which killed more than 6,000 people when it lashed the Philippines with maximum sustained winds of 230kph and gusts of 325kp in 2013 - holds that record.

On Friday, Typhoon Mangkhut was in the Pacific, about 450km from the Philippines with the 125km-wide eye expected to make landfall on Luzon Island on Saturday. The Global Disaster Alert and co-ordination System said it expected a “high humanitarian impact based on the storm strength and the affected population in the past and forecasted path”. More than four million Filippinos are reportedly at risk being affected by the storm which could drench areas as far south as the country’s island capital, Manila. Mr Browning said the super typhoon was then likely to continue tracking west to Hong Kong and southern China, jeopardising millions more lives, on Sunday.

Mr Browning said the system’s “very destructive winds” and heavy rainfall were likely to cause infrastructure damage anywhere it hits.

“But the biggest killer of all with a system like this is typically the storm surge,” he said.

“The region close to the typhoon’s crossing can expect (to bare the brunt).”

With a massive rain cloud band 900km wide, combined with seasonal monsoon rains, the typhoon could also set off landslides, according to forecasters.

Countries across east and southeast Asia are issuing emergency alerts and ordering evacuations as both Typhoon Mangkhut and a second storm, Typhoon Barijat hit the region.

Typhoon Mangkhut is forecast to hit the northeastern Cagayan province of the Philippines, where over four million people live, early on Saturday local time. Storm warnings have been raised in 25 provinces across the region and caused several domestic flights and sea travel to be cancelled. Schools have been closed and bulldozers are on standby in the event of landslides.

Office of Civil Defense chief Ricardo Jalad told an emergency meeting led by the Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte that about 4.2 million people in Cagayan, nearby Isabela province and outlying regions were vulnerable to the most destructive effects near the typhoon’s 125km-wide eye. Nearly 48,000 houses in those high-risk areas are made of light materials and vulnerable to Mangkhut’s ferocious winds.

The military and police in the country’s main northern island of Luzon have been placed on red alert — barring all troops from going on leave — so they can respond to emergencies in communities expected to bear the brunt of the typhoon.

Cagayan Governor Manuel Mamba told local media that this typhoon was “very different, this is more complicated because of possible storm surges”.

Around 12,000 people have also been evacuated from low-lying parts of China’s highly populated Guangdong province and shipping halted ahead of the arrival of Typhoon Barijat Thursday, according to state media.

The Hong Kong observatory’s tracking system shows a 70 per cent probability that Typhoon Mangkhut could deviate within a 500km radius from its predicted position, causing uncertainty over the next few days.

Australian expat Alexis Galloway, who lives in Hong Kong, told the government this morning “announced on the radio they are opening 47 emergency shelters once the T3 is raised”.

“This is the first time I’m actually quite nervous (about a typhoon) … we live right on the water too and 15 minutes from Shenzhen! Right in the thick (of it),” she said.

The system is already stronger than any of the 15 past severe or super typhoons that warranted the highest “No 10” warning sign, the South China Morning Post reports.