While the US East Coast is bracing for Hurricane Florence, a category 4 storm with sustained winds of 177 kmh, the Philippines, Hong Kong and Southern China are bracing for what could likely be a more severe impact from Super Typhoon Mangkhut with sustained winds of 265 kmh and gusts up to 325kmh.
Mangkhut, classified by the Hong Kong Observatory as a super typhoon, is expected to pass into the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR) today, at which point it will be named Ompong. Mangkhut is forecast to brush across the top end of the Philippines Saturday morning before heading nearly directly at Hong Kong with landfall expected Sunday morning.
The super typhoon will bring heavy rains and storm surges on its trail and could affect as many as 43.4 million people, according to the United Nation’s Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System.
Although Mangkhut will only crease across the top the Philippines, the rain and wind shadow is expected to extend hundreds of kilometres south, as far as the capital Manila.
The Philippines is anticipating that Mangkhut will be as strong as Super Typhoon Haiyan (locally known as Yolanda) which struck in 2013, killing more than 6,300 people in the country.
The government has already preparing food, supplies and rescue, as well as 1.7 billion pesos (USD 31.5 million) in stand-by funds, according to the country’s disaster agency.
The 15th typhoon to hit the country so far this year (normally it experiences about 20 per year), this will be the strongest typhoon this year and also threatens vital farmlands in Northern Luzon just prior the rice and corn harvest in a country where rice is a key stable and already this year has seen shortages.
According to a projection of the storm’s path by the Hong Kong Observatory (HKO), it will pass within 80 kilometres of Hong Kong, and 160 kilometres of Macau on Sunday before making landfall in China’s Guangdong province, during which wind speeds are expected to have dropped slightly to 220 kilometres per hour, equivalent to a category 4 hurricane.
Airlines in Hong Kong are already bracing for what will clearly be a shutdown of Hong Kong International Airport (HKG) along with neighbouring Macau International Airport (MFM) and also possibly Shenzhen Bao’an International Airport (SZX) and Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport (CAN).