Most powerful typhoon of the year to skirt Philippines and Taiwan
Massive waves from the winds of approaching Typhoon Soulik break on the harbor in Toucheng, Taiwan, Friday, July 12, 2013. (AP / Wally Santana)
Published Friday, September 20, 2013 11:38AM EDT
TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The most powerful typhoon of the year approached the northern Philippines and southern Taiwan on Friday with ferocious gusts of up to 296 kilometres per hour. It was expected to skirt both regions, but authorities warned of torrential rains and destructive winds.
Super Typhoon Usagi had maximum sustained winds of 240 kph on Friday evening and was about 600 kilometres southeast of Taipei, Taiwan's capital, according to the U.S. Navy's Joint Typhoon Warning Center. A storm achieves super typhoon status when its sustained winds are at least 240 kph.
The huge storm was on track to pass near the Batanes Islands, the northernmost part of the Philippines, as it moved across the Luzon Strait, close to Taiwan's southernmost Hengchun peninsula.
In Taiwan, hundreds of people were evacuated from flood-prone areas near cities and in remote mountainous regions. Torrential rains were forecast for all of the eastern coast and the south.
Usagi was projected to push on toward southern China, with its outer bands slamming into the Guangdong-Hong Kong coastline on Sunday. The storm is expected to weaken, and by Sunday is projected to have maximum sustained winds of 158 kph.
Usagi had a massive diameter of 1,100 kilometres, with its outer rain bands extending across the main northern Philippine island of Luzon and southern Taiwan. Forecasters predicted 24-hour rainfall accumulation of 500 millimeters near its centre.
In the Philippines, the Batanes Islands were placed under the highest storm alert, while lower warnings were raised in at least 15 northern provinces where officials warned of flash floods, landslides and storm surges.