MANILA – Mangkhut, the most powerful typhoon to strike the Philippines in the last five years, made landfall on Saturday in the northeastern town of Baggao with maximum sustained winds of 205 km/h (128 mph) and gusts of up to 285 km/h (177 mph).
The Category 5 storm came ashore at 1:40 am (1740 GMT Friday) in Cagayan province, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said.
Mangkhut, denoted Ompong in the Philippines, is moving west-northwest at 35 km/h and is expected to exit the archipelago in the direction of Hong Kong late Saturday, according to the PAGASA bulletin.
Forecasters said that coastal areas in the impact zone could experience a storm surge of as much as 6 m (19.6 ft).
Seven provinces in the northern part of the island of Luzon – Cagayan, Isabela, Ilocos Norte, Apayao, Abra, Kalinga and the Babuyan Islands – have been placed under Alert Level 4, one below the maximum.
More than 13,000 people were evacuated ahead of the typhoon’s landfall, though the storm will affect more than 5.2 million Filipinos who live in a radius of 125 km of Mangkhut’s path.
Humanitarian organizations like the Red Cross have increased the number of people affected by the typhoon to 10 million, considering the damages to agriculture that are expected in Luzon.
Authorities have warned that the destructive force of Mangkhut could be similar to that of Haiyan, a super typhoon that left more than 7,000 people dead and missing in November 2013.
The area where Mangkhut made landfall, however, is less densely populated and is protected by mountains that will soften the impact of the typhoon.