How Super Typhoon Mangkhut will cause chaos when it slams into Asia

Workers collecting trash and debris along the shore of Manila Bay as part of typhoon precautions in Manila, Philippines, on Sept 13, 2018.
Workers collecting trash and debris along the shore of Manila Bay as part of typhoon precautions in Manila, Philippines, on Sept 13, 2018. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

MANILA (BLOOMBERG) - For days now, Super Typhoon Mangkhut has been churning across the Pacific, keeping the millions of people potentially in its path on tenterhooks.

The powerful cyclone is forecast to make landfall in the Philippine province of Cagayan on Saturday morning (Sept 15), prompting Filipinos to brace for the worst.

Five years ago, Haiyan, one of the strongest typhoons ever recorded struck the country and killed more than 6,300 people.

Mangkhut is forecast to slam across vast swathes of farmland in northern Philippines, threatening food supply at a time when the nation is grappling with the fastest inflation in Asia.

The storm, which caused flooding and power outages in the US territory of Guam, is set to subsequently head to Hong Kong, China and Vietnam. Taiwan is also at risk of heavy rains.

As many as 36.7 million people could be affected, the United Nation's Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System warned on Friday.

The storm, named after a fruit in Thailand, is forecast by the US military's Joint Typhoon Warning Centre to pack maximum winds of the equivalent of 278 kmh with gusts as strong as 333kmh.

Here's how this year's strongest typhoon could affect Asia.

DESTRUCTION IN THE PHILIPPINES

As many as 824,000 of the 4.3 million people living in the path of Mangkhut are in danger and may have to be evacuated, Mr Ricardo Jalad, executive director of the disaster management agency, said in a conference on Thursday. President Rodrigo Duterte and key government officials attended the command briefing.

The Philippine Red Cross estimates that 10 million people, some of whom have been displaced in the past, are at risk.

An average of 20 storms pummel the archipelago each year.

In 2013, the deadly typhoon Haiyan packed winds as strong as 315kmh. The last time a Category 5 cyclone threatened the Philippines was in October 2016.

 
 
 

Schools in the capital region and many parts of the main island of Luzon were shut on Friday.

"There's a possibility, albeit remote, that we might be spared," presidential spokesman Harry Roque said. "But for everyone, please be ready. Better to be prepared than sorry."

FOOD SUPPLY, INFLATION

Mangkhut may damage as much as 11 billion pesos (S$279 million) of rice and corn in the Philippines, with the storm coming just before the start of harvest, according to the latest estimate of Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Pinol.

Farmers were urged to harvest their crops early.

"Economic activity will be impacted, but agriculture and fishing would be affected even more, hurting supply, and keeping the upside pressure on inflation" in the Philippines, said Mr Chidu Narayanan, an economist at Standard Chartered in Singapore.

"Inflation is likely to remain elevated," he said, projecting average consumer price gains of 5 per cent for this year against the central bank's target of 2 per cent to 4 per cent.

HONG KONG

While the track of Mangkhut remains uncertain, and it is forecast to weaken after leaving the Philippines, Hong Kong said it will open 48 temporary shelters for people in need once it issues typhoon signal No 3.

Residents on some outlying islands have been asked to take precautions and move to a safe place.

Trading at the stock exchange will be cancelled in the morning if typhoon signal No 8 or higher is announced after 9am. The market will remain shut for the rest of the day if the alert is kept at those levels after noon.

At hotels around the financial centre, guests were warned to stay away from windows and to remain indoors.

AIR TRAVEL, RACING

Cathay Pacific Airways urged passengers travelling on Sunday through next Monday to or from Hong Kong to rebook their trips, offering to waive any charges.

Hong Kong Express Airways and Virgin Atlantic Airways are offering similar arrangements.

Officials of The Hong Kong Jockey Club are assessing the situation and will decide if a race meeting at Sha Tin will proceed.

Philippine Airlines and Cebu Air cancelled almost two dozen flights for Friday and Saturday.

CHINA

China's National Meteorological Centre described Typhoon Mangkhut to possess "strong skills" like a gongfu master in its Weibo account and advised the coastal area of Guangdong province to take precautions.

TAIWAN

In Taiwan, Premier Lai Ching-te urged residents in southern parts affected by floods in August to strengthen their defences against the typhoon.

While Mangkhut isn't expected to make landfall in Taiwan, it's forecast to bring heavy rains and strong winds this weekend, according to the Central Weather Bureau.

POWER PLANTS

Energy assets in the typhoon's projected path include CGN Power's Daya Bay Nuclear Power Plant in Guangdong, the oil products and petrochemical ports of Huizhou and Zhuhai in southern China, several oil refineries in Taiwan, southern China and Hainan island, and the Nghi Son port and oil refinery south of Hanoi in Vietnam.