Gusty winds, heavy rains batter Philippines as super typhoon Mangkhut makes landfall
The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said the super typhoon made landfall at 1:40 a.m. local time on Saturday, packing maximum sustained winds of 205 km per hour and gusts reaching 305 km per hour.
According to PAGASA, Mangkhut has been slightly weakened and is now heading towards Ilocos Norte province in the northern Philippines.
"Stormy weather is expected over many areas (in the Philippine main Luzon Island, including Metro Manila)," PAGASA said.
Ricardo Jalad, undersecretary of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, said 56,000 people have been evacuated to safer grounds when typhoon smashed into northern Luzon Island.
Jalad said nearly 5 million people have been affected by the typhoon, mostly farmers and fishermen from the provinces.
So far, no casualties have been reported, except for some houses and town halls damaged by the super typhoon.
In Tuguegarao City, the capital of the Cagayan province, local media reported that the ceiling of the city hall was damaged. Some reporters in the city said they could not venture out of their hotels because of strong winds. "Our hotel is being shaken," a reporter told Xinhua.
Strong winds are shaking trees and shattering windows a few hours before the Mangkhut slammed the province.
The National Grid Corporation of the Philippines told media that the provinces of Isabela and Cagayan in the northern Philippines have begun to have power outages since Friday night.
In the Batanes province, communication signal has started to become static because telecom operator has already shut down its facility in the province, said the governor Marilou Cayco.
Days before the typhoon hit land, authorities urged residents in the direct path of the typhoon to evacuate, especially those living in coastal communities, warning the storm could bring intense rains that could trigger flash floods, landslides and waves as tall as three-storey buildings.
Forecasters said the southwest monsoon enhanced by the typhoon will continue to bring gusty winds and heavy rains.
Forecasters also warned of storm surge or waves that could climb up to six meters.
"Fisherfolks and those with small seacrafts are advised not to venture out over the seaboards of areas with (storm signals) and the seaboards of Visayas and of Mindanao," PAGASA said.
Many domestic and international flights were suspended hours before the landfall. Classes and work in government offices in most parts of the northern Philippines were also suspended.
The super typhoon is predicted to exit the Philippines on Saturday night toward the South China Sea.
The Philippines is a tropical country and experiences around 20 typhoons every year. ■