Typhoon Mangkhut left destruction in its wake as it made landfall on the island of Luzon in north Philippines. Around 14 people, including rescue workers, have been confirmed dead with the storm packing winds of 185km/h, causing landslides, flooding and storm surges of up to six meters. The gales damaged most buildings in the city of Tuguegarao with communication networks destroyed in some areas. The storm has affected crops worth more than $ 110 million with over 1,200,000 hectares of farmland damaged. Although downgraded from a super typhoon, Mangkhut still peaked with winds equivalent of a Category Four Hurricane.
Philippine officials proved better prepared this time round than in previous storms, as warnings were issued, evacuations enforced, flights cancelled, schools closed and sea travel restricted.
Defence secretary Delfin Lorenzana confirmed two C-30 planes and 10 helicopters would be deployed once weather improves to provide relief and assist rescue operations in badly hit Cagayan province. A” humanitarian caravan” is also making its way to areas likely to be most affected. Mr. Delfin warned it was still a life and death situation with swollen rivers and potential mudslides posing hazards, warning those evacuated not to return home just yet.
Locally known as Ompong, the typhoon is the strongest since Super Typhoon Haiyan killed 7000 people back in 2013. Luzon region was also shattered by Super Typhoon Haima in 2016 with over 14,000 houses damaged.
With four million people on its path, authorities expect more casualties as the 900 km wide system passed on its way through to China and Hong Kong as forecast, being expected to rain itself out over Vietnam.
The Chinese National Meteorological Centre warned the storm would make landfall in Guandong province. Evacuations have already begun in nearby Fujin province, with over 50,000 relocated.
Hong Kong is bracing itself to take the brunt of the storm as it could be reclassified as a super typhoon before it strikes the island. Residents have been urged to stay indoors as they boarded up windows and secured scaffolding.
Philippines is a notoriously storm-prone region, getting hit by around 20 each year. Typhoon Mangkhut has been classified as the strongest storm of 2018.