A strong typhoon packing winds of more than 200 kph (124 mph) tore across the northern tip of the Philippines on Saturday, bringing heavy rain and causing widespread power and communications outages.
There were no immediate reports of casualties after super typhoon Mangkhut, a category 5 storm, entered the province of Cagayan in the early hours and sent winds and rains across the entire main island of Luzon.
Disaster authorities have yet to complete damage assessments from Mangkhut, the 15th and most powerful storm to hit the Philippines this year, which had maximum gusts of 305 kph (190 mph), and was expected to clear land after 10am on its way towards southern China and Vietnam.
“Almost all of the buildings here have been damaged, the roofs were blown away,” said Rogelio Sending, a government official in Tuguegarao, the capital of Cagayan. “There has been no electricity supply … communications were also down.
“We’ve received reports that many trees were uprooted and electric posts toppled and are blocking the roads. This makes the clearing operations really difficult.”
Satellite photos show the size of Super Typhoon Mangkhut as it barrels through the northern Philippines Credit: Jonathan Mitchell/Alamy Live News
Tens of thousands of people have been evacuated from coastal areas following warnings of possible storm surges of 3 m (3.3 yards) to 6m. Floods, landslides and widespread property destruction are expected.
Television footage and videos posted on social media showed bursts of rain, trees thrashed by winds, shop signs torn down and metal sheets peeled off roofs.
Authorities said some people had opted to stay home and ride out the storm to protect their properties.
Guests sleep inside a hotel restaurant after the roof of their room was damaged by Typhoon Mangkut in Tuguegarao city Credit: Aaron Favila/AP
Mangkhut’s peak winds have been stronger than those of Hurricane Florence, which killed five people and halted power supply to more than 900,000 US homes and businesses in the Carolinas, before it was downgraded to a tropical storm.
Mangkhut has a diametre of about 559 miles and gathered pace as it reached the Philippines, but has since slowed, with wind speeds falling to 112 mph.
Mangkhut caused blackouts and left hundreds homeless when it struck US Pacific territories in Micronesia earlier.
Philippine authorities have said they are better prepared than in 2013, when Typhoon Haiyan devastated central areas of the country and killed 6,300 people.
Typhoon Mangkhut slammed into the country’s northeastern coast early on Saturday Credit: Aaron Favila/AP
Saving lives was paramount and it was too soon to know the extent of Mangkhut’s devastation, said Francis Tolentino, an adviser to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and disaster response coordinator.
“I talked to the president last night. His clear and concise marching order was ‘Save lives, save lives,'” Mr Tolentino told news channel ANC.
Military, medical and emergency response teams were on standby, with more rescue teams ready to help first-responders in trouble, Ricardo Jalad, head of the disaster agency, told a televised meeting.
Winds, strong rain and power outages hit Manila, the capital, which is among more than three dozen northern and central provinces facing storm warnings.
A resident looks at market stalls destroyed by strong winds as Typhoon Mangkhut barrelled across Tuguegrao city Credit: Aaron Favila/AP
About a quarter of the estimated 4.2 million people affected by the storm live in poverty and the United Nations estimated about 1.4 million farmers and 100,000 fishermen were hit by the typhoon.
An average of 20 typhoons and storms lash the Philippines each year, killing hundreds of people and leaving millions in near-perpetual poverty.
Poor communities reliant on fishing are some of the most vulnerable to fierce typhoon winds and the storm surges that pound the coast.
“The rains will be strong and the winds are no joke… We may have a storm surge that could reach four storeys high,” Michael Conag, a spokesman for local civil defence authorities, told AFP.
An aerial view shows boats in a ‘typhoon shelter’ next to the flood prone coastal village of Lei Yu Mun, two days before the expected arrival of Super Typhoon Mangkhut in Hong Kong Credit: Anthony Wallace/AFP
Hong Kong is also in Mangkhut’s sights and preparations there were already under way on Friday, though the storm was not expected to hit until Sunday.
The Hong Kong Observatory warned that the massive storm will bring “significantly deteriorating weather” to the city on Sunday and warned residents to take precautions.
Taiwan’s central weather bureau predicted that Mangkhut would be nearest to the island on Saturday, bringing heavy rains to its southern and eastern parts although it was unlikely to make a direct hit.