MON­STER TY­PHOON

Ty­phoon Mangkhut (Om­pong) bar­rels closer to north Philippines with over 5 mil­lion peo­ple at risk from the storm

Sun.Star Davao - - FRONT PAGE -

Tugue­garao — Ty­phoon Mangkhut re­tained its fe­ro­cious strength and shifted slightly to­ward more densely pop­u­lated coastal prov­inces on Fri­day as it bar­reled closer to the north­east­ern Philippines, where a mas­sive evac­u­a­tion was un­der­way.

More than five mil­lion peo­ple are at risk from the storm, which the Hawaii-based Joint Ty­phoon Warn­ing Cen­ter cat­e­go­rizes as a su­per ty­phoon with pow­er­ful winds and gusts equiv­a­lent to a cat­e­gory 5 At­lantic hur­ri­cane.

It was ini­tially ex­pected to hit the north­ern tip of Ca­gayan prov­ince early Satur­day, but it is now likely to make land­fall far­ther south and closer to Is­abela prov­ince, and then cut across the north­ern bread­bas­ket, Philip­pine state fore­caster Chris Perez said. The change isn’t likely to markedly change its im­pact be­cause of the ty­phoon’s mas­sive size, he said.

In Ca­gayan’s cap­i­tal city of Tugue­garao, res­i­dents braced for the ty­phoon’s fury by re­in­forc­ing homes and build­ings and stock­ing up on food.

“It was busy ear­lier in the hard­ware store and peo­ple were buy­ing wood, nails, tin wire, ply­wood and um­brel­las,” said Ben­jamin Banez, who owns a three-story ho­tel where work­ers were busy ham­mer­ing up wooden boards to pro­tect glass pan­els.

A su­per ty­phoon wrought heavy dam­age to Banez’s ho­tel and the rest of Ca­gayan in 2016. “We’re pray­ing that there will be less dam­age this time, although we know that this one will be very strong,” Banez said.

A huge rain­cloud band 900 kilo­me­ters (560 miles) wide, com­bined with sea­sonal mon­soon rains, means the ty­phoon will bring heavy to in­tense rain that could set off land­slides and flash floods. Storm warn­ings have been raised in al­most all the prov­inces across the main north­ern is­land of Lu­zon, in­clud­ing the cap­i­tal, Manila, re­strict­ing sea and air travel.

The ty­phoon is ap­proach­ing at the start of the rice and corn har­vest­ing sea­son in Ca­gayan, a ma­jor agri­cul­tural pro­ducer, and farm­ers were scram­bling to save what they could of their crops, Ca­gayan Gov. Manuel Mamba said. The threat to agri­cul­ture comes as the Philippines tries to cope with rice short­ages.

Mangkhut was tracked at mid-af­ter­noon on Fri­day about 470 kilo­me­ters (290 miles) away in the Pa­cific with sus­tained winds of 205 kilo­me­ters (127 miles) per hour and gusts of up to 255 kph (158 mph), fore­cast­ers said.

Af­ter the Philippines, the Hong Kong Ob­ser­va­tory pre­dicts Mangkhut will plow into the Chi­nese main­land early Mon­day south of Hong Kong and north of the is­land prov­ince of Hainan. Though it is likely to weaken from a su­per ty­phoon to a se­vere ty­phoon, it will still be pack­ing sus­tained winds of 175 kph (109 mph), it said.

The ob­ser­va­tory warned of rough seas and fre­quent heavy squalls, urg­ing res­i­dents of the densely pop­u­lated fi­nan­cial hub to “take suit­able pre­cau­tions and pay close at­ten­tion to the lat­est in­for­ma­tion” on the storm.

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