THE most powerful typhoon on Earth, Super Typhoon Usagi, has swept through the Luzon Strait between the Philippines and Taiwan today on its way to its expected landfall in Hong Kong.
Gusts of over 160 miles per hour were recorded by the US Navy this morning, with Usagi lying 340 miles south of the Taiwanese capital Taipei.
Nearly 2,500 people were evacuated from flood-prone areas and remote mountainous regions of Taiwan as the government deployed military personnel into potential disaster zones. Up to a metre of rain is expected as the storm passes.
Local officials closed mountain highways blocked by landslides and suspended train services connecting the east and west coasts as power outages affected thousands of homes.
Taiwan’s Central Weather Bureau said Usagi was veering west, likely sparing southern Taiwan from the most destructive winds near its eye.
But gusts exceeding 144mph were recorded on the island of Lanyu, and the Bureau warned that dangerous winds were buffeting the holiday resort of Kending on the Hengchun peninsula.
In the Philippines, Usagi triggered landslides and power outages in parts of the north of the country, including the Batanes island group where it made landfall early today. No casualties have been reported.
The Filipino government warned that storm surges and heavy waves could cause damage before Usagi blows past the Philippines tonight.
China’s National Meteorological Centre announced a red alert, its highest level, as the storm maintained its track towards Hong Kong and the manufacturing heartland of the Pearl River Delta. The observatory warned Usagi will impact coastal areas of Guangdong, Zhejiang and Fujian provinces.
The US Navy’s warning centre predicted that Usagi will approach Hong Kong with weaker but dangerous sustained winds of 110 mph early Monday morning, while the Hong Kong Observatory warned the storm poses a “severe threat” to the city.