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Super typhoon’s twist puts more in destructive path

The Associated Press

A Philippine Air Force member stands in front of a satellite image of Typhoon Mangkhut at the national disaster operations center in Manila on Thursday.

The Associated Press MANILA (AP) — Typhoon Mangkhut retained its ferocious strength and slightly shifted toward more densely populated coastal provinces on Friday as it barreled closer to the northeastern Philippines, where a massive evacuation was underway.

More than 4 million people are at risk from the storm, which the Hawaii-based Joint Typhoon Warning Center categorizes as a super typhoon with powerful winds and gusts equivalent to a category 5 Atlantic hurricane.

It was initially expected to hit the northern tip of Cagayan province early Saturday, but it’s now likely to make landfall farther south and closer to Isabela province then cut across the northern breadbasket, Philippine state forecaster Chris Perez said. The change won’t make much difference because of the typhoon’s massive size, he said.

A huge raincloud band 900 kilometers wide, combined with seasonal monsoon rains, means the typhoon will bring heavy to intense rains that could set off landslides and flash floods. Warnings have been raised in 25 provinces across the main northern island of Luzon, restricting sea and air travel.

The typhoon is approaching at the start of the rice and corn harvesting season in Cagayan, a major agricultural producer, and farmers were scrambling to save what they could of their crops, Cagayan Gov. Manuel Mamba said. The threat to agriculture comes as the Philippines tries to cope with rice shortages.

Mangkhut was tracked on Friday about 400 kilometers away in the Pacific with sustained winds of 205 kph and gusts of up to 255 kph, Philippine forecasters said.

After the Philippines, the Hong Kong Observatory predicts Mangkhut will plow into the Chinese mainland early Monday morning south of Hong Kong and north of the island province of Hainan. Though it will weaken from a super typhoon to a severe typhoon, it will still be packing sustained winds of 175 kph.

The observatory warned of rough seas and frequent heavy squalls, urging residents of the densely populated financial hub to “take suitable precautions and pay close attention to the latest information” on the storm.

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