Mangkhut changes course from Taiwan but heavy rains expected as super typhoon grows
Direct hit no longer a concern but torrential rain expected in south and east
Super Typhoon Mangkhut has continued its west-northwesterly direction in a path likely to hit Luzon in the Philippines instead of Taiwan, to the relief of residents on the self-ruled island.
But weather authorities warned the typhoon, billed as the most powerful this year, had grown bigger and could bring torrential rains to southern and eastern Taiwan between Friday and Saturday.
“If the typhoon continues on its current path, it might not hit Taiwan and the eye of the typhoon is forecast to pass through the northern tip of Luzon by Friday,” said Wu Yi-fan, forecaster of the Central Weather Bureau on Thursday.
Wu said that if the radius of the typhoon increased to 300km (186.5 miles) Taiwan would still issue a sea warning, although there should be no impact on land.
She said that after passing through Luzon, the typhoon was expected to move to Hong Kong, Macau and Hainan Island by Saturday. Travellers to the area were advised to check for flight cancellations.
Residents in eastern and southern Taiwan were urged to take precautions against the torrential rains that the typhoon would bring.
Earlier, the weather bureau revised the path of the typhoon southward, due mainly to a strong ridge of high pressure in the Pacific which forced Mangkhut to change course. It was originally forecast to hit Taiwan by Saturday.
As of Thursday morning, Mangkhut was 1,510km off Elunabi, the southernmost tip of the island and had sustained wind speeds of up to 205km/h (127mph) with gusts as high as 255km/h.
The typhoon is even more powerful than Jebi, which left a trail of destruction in Japan last week.
Wu Te-jung, professor of meteorology at Central University in Hsinchu, said Mangkhut was expected to strengthen on Friday, but the threat to Taiwan had been reduced by its change of direction towards the Bashi Channel, which connects the northern Philippines to Taiwan.
The eye of the typhoon was forecast to go through the northern tip of Luzon, the main Philippine island, on Friday, he added.
The government, however, said it would remain on high alert and would be prepared for any changes in direction.
“All relevant units continue to be on standby and remain vigilant,” cabinet spokeswoman Kolas Yotaka said.
Upon learning of the approach of Mangkhut, Taiwanese Premier William Lai Ching-te went to the weather bureau on Sunday for a briefing on the potential damage from the typhoon.
He instructed all relevant authorities to make the best preparations for the typhoon’s arrival, mindful of the destruction Jebi caused in Japan.
It was the most powerful storm to hit Japan in 25 years and left at least 11 people dead and more than 600 injured. It also cut off power supplies to more than a million homes.
The typhoon peeled the roofs off buildings, flipped over vehicles, toppled power poles and sent a 2,700-tonne tanker crashing into the side of a bridge.
Around 3,000 tourists were also left stranded after Kansai International Airport was flooded.