China yesterday hunkered down for the worst storm of the year as it slammed into densely populated Guangdong province, killing at least two people after rattling Hong Kong and Macau and leaving a trail of death and destruction in the northern Philippines.
Typhoon Mangkhut, the Thai name for mangosteen, was rated as a maximum Category 5 storm - the strongest this year - when it struck the northern Philippines early on Saturday with sustained winds of more than 250kmh. It smashed buildings, caused widespread flooding and triggered a coastal storm surge. Thousands of people were forced to flee to shelters.
Scores of people have been killed but the death toll was expected to rise with rescuers recovering more bodies of landslide victims.
The storm swept through the largely agricultural north-eastern Cagayan province in Luzon island, the largest and most populated island in the Philippines.
The Asean Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management said in an updated report that 270,388 people were affected and 154,185 were evacuated.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who visited the affected areas yesterday, pledged funds for the recovery efforts.
The Chinese authorities, meanwhile, took no chances by issuing the highest storm warning even though Mangkhut weakened as it made landfall on the coast of Jiangmen City in Guangdong yesterday at 5pm local time, packing winds of up to 162kmh.
More than 2.45 million people had by then been relocated and over 48,000 fishing boats called back to port, Xinhua news agency reported.
Flights in Guangzhou and the neighbouring island province of Hainan were cancelled while Shenzhen airport was ordered closed until 8am today.
Mangkhut's northwesterly track is expected to bring heavy rain and winds to the autonomous region of Guangxi early today before weakening into a tropical depression to reach south-western Yunnan tomorrow.
The ferocity of the storm triggered Hong Kong's highest No. 10 typhoon signal, which was lowered only after it had passed. Hong Kong breathed a sigh of relief as Mangkhut's eye skirted 100km south of the territory, but it still left a trail of debris as swirling winds and violent gusts snapped trees, swayed buildings and blew out windows in offices and apartments.
The travel plans of tens of thousands were disrupted after nearly 900 flight cancellations at Hong Kong's international airport, but the authorities later said flights were expected to resume today. Several flights out of Singapore were also affected.
The storm managed to score a historic first in Macau with all of its 42 casinos shutting late on Saturday.
The authorities in the world's largest gambling hub were criticised last year after a super typhoon killed nine people and caused severe damage. Only seven people were reported injured this time.
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