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Economy

Typhoon Mangkhut hits Philippines, heading for Hong Kong

Region hunkers down with evacuation orders and flight cancellations

Rains from Typhoon Mangkhut began falling Friday on the Philippines' Tuguegarao city, Cagayan Province, where the storm made landfall early Saturday morning.   © AP

MANILA/HONG KONG -- The powerful Typhoon Mangkhut made landfall in the Philippines early Saturday morning as the country braced for its fiercest tropical cyclone this year.

The storm reached the northern Philippines' Cagayan Province at 1:40 a.m., bringing maximum sustained winds of up to 205 kph, according to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration, or Pagasa.

There were no immediate reports of casualties as of Saturday morning.  Disaster authorities have yet to complete damage assessments from the typhoon.

The Philippines raised typhoon warnings and canceled more flights on Friday ahead of Mangkhut's landfall.

"All top officials will be on hand. We are on red alert," Edgar Posadas, spokesperson for the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, said on Friday.

Around 5.2 million people were expected to be within the storm's 125 km radius, higher than yesterday's 4.3 million estimate. Almost a million of them are impoverished and more vulnerable to Mangkhut's onslaught. Nearly 10,000 individuals -- or over 2,000 families -- have been evacuated ahead of the typhoon's landfall on Saturday morning. Forced evacuations will be implemented when necessary, Posadas said.

The government has earmarked 1.7 billion pesos ($31 million) in "quick response funds" for food and other relief.

NDRRMC said 22 domestic flights were canceled on Friday and over 4,000 passengers are stranded in seaports.

Philippine Airlines said it has canceled six international flights and 18 domestic trips from Friday to Saturday "in the interest of safety." Affected international flights include routes from Manila to Shanghai and Hong Kong.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong Observatory said a "weather in Hong Kong will deteriorate significantly on Sunday," although it remains unclear whether the typhoon will directly hit Hong Kong. In a warning posted online on Friday afternoon, the observatory said squalls, heavy rain and storm surge would pose a threat to the city's 7 million residents.

The Hong Kong Home Affairs Department said it would activate an emergency hotline to handle public inquiries about the storm after it issues typhoon alert No. 1, the lowest alert level. It also planned to open 48 temporary shelters.

The city's Hospital Authority said that enough doctors and nurses will be on duty at its 43 public hospitals.

Hong Kongers have been boarding up windows and stocking essentials, leading to a surge in vegetable prices over the past few days.

Local carriers such as Cathay Pacific Airways, Hong Kong Express and Cathay Dragon have allowed some passengers to rebook or reroute flights to cope with possible delays and cancellations on Sunday.

The China Railway Guangzhou Group has suspended ticket sales for high-speed trains between Hong Kong and Guangzhou for next Monday and Tuesday.

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