Millions at risk as super typhoon heads for the Philippines

Coastal areas evacuated as Typhoon Mangkhut is set to hit country’s main island

Satellite image shows Typhoon Mangkhut heading towards the Philippines. Photograph: Agustin Paullier/NOAA/RAMMB/AFP/Getty Images

Satellite image shows Typhoon Mangkhut heading towards the Philippines. Photograph: Agustin Paullier/NOAA/RAMMB/AFP/Getty Images

 

Philippine authorities started to evacuate thousands of people from coastal areas on Thursday as a super typhoon with winds of more than 205km/h bore down on the country’s main island.

Typhoon Mangkhut is forecast to make landfall early on Saturday on the northern tip of Luzon island, and will be the strongest of the 15 storms to have hit the Philippines this year.

Medical and emergency response teams were on standby and more than 1.7 billion pesos (€27 million) of relief goods prepared as Mangkhut, known locally as Ompong, edged towards the storm-prone nation on its way towards southern China and northern Vietnam.

“What’s happening now is pre-emptive evacuation in certain areas,” said Manuel Mamba, governor of the northeastern province of Cagayan, where schools and offices were closed and police, military and the coast guard were told to be ready.

“There are no people on the streets as they are preparing for the storm,” he told a radio station.

Mangkhut, the Thai word for the fruit mangosteen, has a diameter of about 900km, with gusts of up to 255km/h.

It is drawing comparisons with Typhoon Haiyan, which devastated central areas of the archipelago nation in 2013, killing 6,300 people.

President Rodrigo Duterte and defence, interior and energy chiefs were given a briefing on emergency plans for a storm that could impact 4.3 million people, more than 800,000 of whom live in poverty.

“I worry especially for houses made of light materials,” said Marilou Cayco, governor of Batanes, a chain of seven remote islands 240km off the mainland, adding that up to 3,000 families there could be “battered”.

Gathered strength

Mangkhut has gathered strength since it struck the US Pacific territories of Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands overnight on Monday, tearing down trees and power lines and leaving hundreds of people homeless.

Its next destination is the Philippines, which on average sees 20 tropical storms a year.

“We are not just looking at floods. It could generate a storm surge upon landfall,” said Vicente Malano, administrator of Philippine weather agency Pagasa. – Reuters