Philippines on alert ahead of Super Typhoon Mangkhut landfall

A worker recovers net in a fish pen before Super Typhoon Mangkhut hits the main island of Luzon, in Muntinlupa, Philippines, on Sept 13, 2018. PHOTO: REUTERS

MANILA (BLOOMBERG) - The Philippines placed the main Luzon island under storm alert on Friday (Sept 14) and said as many as 824,000 Filipinos may have to be evacuated before Super Typhoon Mangkhut hits land.

Mangkhut is expected to make landfall in either Cagayan or Isabela province in northern Philippines between 5am and 8am of Saturday, Chris Perez, a state weather forecaster, said in a televised briefing.

The Philippine weather bureau raised the third in a five-step storm warning system in 10 provinces including Cagayan and Isabela.

Lower alerts have been hoisted for the rest of main Luzon island including Metro Manila. Most schools and some offices in Luzon are shut.

Hong Kong's government, which is bracing for the storm on Sunday, will hold a joint press conference on Friday on preparations, including the opening of 48 temporary shelters after typhoon signal No 3 is issued.

"We are taking every step to prepare Hong Kong for this typhoon because we are advised that this is a super typhoon," the city's Chief Executive Carrie Lam said.

Taiwan, which is now expected to avoid a direct hit, has issued a sea warning.

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

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said his government has allotted almost two billion pesos (S$50.7 million) in stand-by funds for Mangkhut, but may need foreign aid if the impact proves severe.

About 4.3 million Filipinos live in the path of Mangkhut, Mr Ricardo Jalad, executive director of the disaster management agency, said on Thursday. Most of Luzon shut schools.

Mangkhut could affect as many as 36.7 million people in the region, according to the United Nation's Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System.

About 20 cyclones pass through disaster-prone Philippines each year. In 2013, Super Typhoon Haiyan, which packed winds of as high as 315kmh, killed more than 6,300 people there.

More than 4,600 passengers are stranded in various Philippine ports, according to the coast guard. The Transport Department has cancelled sea travel in several ports as far as the nation's southern island of Mindanao, anticipating rough currents due to the typhoon.

Philippine Airlines, Cebu Air and other airlines cancelled about 3 dozen flights on Friday and Saturday.

Cathay Pacific Airways encouraged passengers travelling to and from Hong Kong on Sunday and Monday to re-book and the airline will waive the fees.

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