Super Typhoon Usagi has hit the Philippines, uprooting trees, cutting off electricity and forcing hundreds to seek shelter. The storm is headed for southern China next.
Usagi weakened as it made landfall over the southern part of Itbayat town in Batanes province in the Philippines, the national weather bureau announced Saturday. The super typhoon bore maximum sustained winds of about 200 kilometers per hour (120 mph) and gusts of up to 250 kilometers per hour. The Office of Civil Defense in the capital, Manila, reported houses damaged by landslides and pockets of power outages in at least five northern provinces where several roads and bridges had become impassable.
"The winds are very strong," Batanes Governor Vicente Gato told a Manila radio station. "I cannot even go out now. Many trees have been uprooted and we have no electricity."
Floods and landslides struck some parts of the northern provinces of Benguet, Pangasinan and Tarlac, but officials have reported no casualties, according to the national disaster risk management council. The government's weather bureau warned that storm surges and heavy waves could cause damage in the Batanes and other islands in the Luzon Strait before Usagi blows past the Philippines on Saturday night.
Usagi, the most powerful storm of the year so far, retains a massive diameter of over 800 kilometers, with its outer rain bands extending across the main northern Philippine island of Luzon and all of Taiwan across to the Chinese coast.
Taiwan and beyond
In Taiwan, officials evacuated 2,500 people from flood-prone areas and remote mountainous regions and deployed military personnel into potential disaster zones in advance of the storm's arrival. Local officials closed mountain highways blocked by landslides and suspended train services connecting the east and west coasts as power outages affected thousands of homes. The system has dumped 200 millimeters (8 inches) of rain along the eastern and southern coasts in a 13-hour period, with officials warning that a total of 1,000 millimeters could drop before the storm leaves Sunday.
Taiwan's Central Weather Bureau reported that Usagi veered west, likely sparing parts of the main island, including the capital, Taipei, which could still see winds as high as 100 kilometers per hour. Officials recorded gusts exceeding 230 kilometers per hour on the island of Lanyu, and the bureau warned that dangerous winds had buffeted the holiday resort of Kending on the Hengchun peninsula as the storm makes its closest approach to the area.
China's National Meteorological Center announced a red alert, its highest level, as the storm maintained its track toward Hong Kong and the manufacturing heartland of the Pearl River Delta. The center warned that Usagi could hit coastal areas of Guangdong, Zhejiang and Fujian provinces.
The US Navy's warning center also predicted that Usagi would approach Hong Kong, with weaker but dangerous sustained winds nearing 180 kilometers per hour by early Monday morning. The Hong Kong Observatory warned the storm posed a "severe threat" to the city.
Cathay Pacific Airways and Dragonair have canceled all flights from Sunday evening, to gradually resume travel by Monday, weather permitting.
mkg/dr (AFP, dpa, AP)
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