TOKYO/MANILA -- Super Typhoon Mangkhut, which is now packing sustained winds of 205 kph, could leave a path of destruction as it passes over the Philippines, Taiwan and Hong Kong in the coming days.
The Philippines' weather bureau on Thursday issued initial alert warnings for 16 areas. Five years ago, sections of the archipelago were devastated by Super Typhoon Haiyan, which killed more than 6,300 islanders.
The Hong Kong Observatory is classifying Mangkhut as a super typhoon, meaning it has sustained winds of over 185 kph.
The typhoon that closed an airport in Japan last week had gusts of around 210 kph.
Mangkhut, developing behind another tropical storm, Barijat, entered Philippine waters on Wednesday. Its path is expected to also take it over Taiwan and Hong Kong. Vital supply chains and infrastructure could be damaged, delivering a blow to business activity across Asia.
President Rodrigo Duterte is scheduled to lead a disaster preparedness conference on Thursday afternoon. Officials are urging that coastal areas be evacuated.
The super typhoon is expected to make landfall in the northern Philippine province of Cagayan on Saturday morning.
Philippine Airlines said it will cancel flights to northern Philippine destinations on that day, while flights to Hong Kong and Macau are being monitored, a spokesperson for the company said.
Around 20 cyclones batter the Philippines annually, leaving fatalities and massive damage to crops and infrastructure.
In Hong Kong, the government held an inter-departmental meeting on Wednesday to review preparedness and contingencies for the typhoon. "Representatives from relevant bureaus and departments reported ... particularly on measures to prevent and handle flooding, backflow of seawater and emergency plans for high-risk locations," the government said on its website. Another meeting is scheduled for Friday.
China Railway Guangzhou Group announced the suspension of ticket sales for high-speed trains between Guangzhou and Hong Kong as well as between Guangzhou and Hangzhou for next week, according to the South China Morning Post.