A powerful typhoon is expected to make a landfall in the Philippines’ main Luzon island on Saturday, prompting authorities to place 17 areas on alert and start evacuations.
Classified by the Hong Kong Observatory as a super typhoon, Mangkhut accelerated while slightly weakening to maximum winds of 240 kilometers (149 miles) per hour compared with 250 kilometers per hour earlier on Thursday. It’s forecast to make a landfall in Cagayan province on Saturday and lose some more power before heading to Hong Kong and South China.
The typhoon, named Ompong in the Philippines, will bring heavy rains and storm surges on its trail. In the Philippines, 10 million people are living in the path of the powerful cyclone, according to the Red Cross which has placed its teams in Northern Luzon on alert.
It can affect as many as 31.4 million people in the region, according to the United Nation’s Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System. The Hong Kong government convened a meeting on Wednesday to review contingency plans. Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. encouraged passengers traveling this weekend to and from Hong Kong to re-book and the airline will waive the fees.
President Rodrigo Duterte will hold a conference with the military, police and other officials on Thursday afternoon to discuss preparations to ensure the nation’s readiness is at its highest level, his spokesman Harry Roque said at a press briefing. The agriculture department asked farmers to harvest their crops early, he said.
“As Mangkhut has a large circulation with intense winds, it will pose considerable threat to the coast of Guangdong,” according to the Hong Kong Observatory.
Provinces in central Luzon have shut schools from Thursday. Duterte canceled his Thursday plan to board a navy ship in Bataan in central Luzon to conduct a missile test. In the province of Benguet and Kalinga, at least 136 people have been evacuated, according to the civil defense office.
“Even further strengthening is expected with Mangkhut as it moves westward toward land,” AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Adam Douty wrote on the website.
About 20 cyclones pass through disaster-prone Philippines each year. In 2013, Super Typhoon Haiyan which packed winds of as high as 315 kilometers per hour killed more than 6,300 people there.
The Southeast Asian nation is preparing stand-by funds, food, supplies and rescue ahead of Mangkhut’s worst impact in the next two days. The government has as much as 20 billion pesos ($370 million) ready for any calamity, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno told Bloomberg Television on Thursday.
The storm, which is the strongest to hit the Philippines this year, is also threatening farmlands in Luzon just before the rice and corn harvest. It could damage as much as 13 billion pesos worth of crops, further threatening inflation that’s at a nine-year high.
The storm, named after a fruit in Thailand, is forecast by the U.S. military’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center to bring top winds of 145 knots (268 kilometers per hour) with maximum gusts of 175 knots. The center of Mangkhut will make its closest approach to Taipei on Sept. 15 and Hong Kong on Sept. 16.
“In Taiwan, while there could be locally damaging wind in the south, flooding rainfall will be the main threat across eastern and southern areas,” AccuWeather Meteorologist Tony Zartman wrote on the website.