Thousands of people will be evacuated as the most powerful typhoon so far this year roars towards the northern Philippines, officials said.
As of Wednesday, Typhoon Mangkhut was carrying maximum sustained winds of 205km/h and gusts of up to 255km/h, according to the Philippine weather bureau.
Mangkhut, also referred to in the Philippines as Ompong, was estimated to be 1,145km east of the northern province of Catanduanes and an emergency alert had already been raised.
Teams from the International Committee of the Red Cross were placed on high alert in northern Luzon, where the storm is expected to make landfall on Saturday morning.
“We’re worried for the 10 million people in the Philippines living in the path of this destructive storm, including those who have been displaced several times due to the monsoon rains last July and August,” Senator Richard Gordon, the chairman of the Philippines Red Cross, said on Wednesday.
“We are preparing our emergency assets and relief items. Our staff and volunteers are on high alert for possible deployment.”
Forecaster Meno Mendoza said Mangkhut’s strong winds could whip up storm surges while heavy rain could trigger landslides and floods.
With the predicted path of the typhoon, it could also hit Taiwan and Hong Kong next.
The storm strengthened rapidly and reached the equivalent of category 4 on the Saffir-Simpson scale on Tuesday.
The typhoon already made its first landfall over the Pacific island chain of the Marianas, just north of Guam. The rain gauge collected 167mm in 12 hours from this cyclone.