Strongest typhoon this year closes in on north Philippines

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Super typhoon Mangkhut - expected to be the strongest typhoon this year - is rapidly gathering momentum in the Pacific as it heads towards populous Asian coasts.

The Philippines is bracing for Typhoon Mangkhut, the most powerful storm this year, with millions living in its path and fears its rains could combine with monsoonal storms that could spark landslides and flash flooding.

A super typhoon is intensifying in the Pacific and is forecast to barrel through the Philippines and Taiwan this week before heading to Hong Kong and south China.

Mangkhut, classified by the Hong Kong Observatory as a super typhoon, is now forecast to pack maximum winds of 250 kilometers (155 miles) per hour by Friday before gradually weakening.

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Super Typhoon Mangkhut, known as Super Typhoon Ompong in the Philippines, is now equivalent to a category 5 Atlantic hurricane, with winds of at least 252 kilometers per hour (157 mph), stronger than Florence, which is expected to cause massive flooding and devastation in the Carolinas.

Philippine Red Cross chairman Richard Gordon said: "We're anxious for the 10 million people in the Philippines living in the path of this destructive storm".

Almost 43 million people in the south-east Asian region could be affected, according to United Nations' Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System.

The charity estimates three million people in the country live in the direct path of Mangkhut. It has already passed the USA territory of Guam, where it caused widespread flooding and power outages.

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Mangkhut is the 15th storm this year to batter the Philippines, which is hit by about 20 storms a year and is considered one of the world's most disaster-prone countries.

Based on its 4 p.m. update, PAGASA said parts of the Bicol Region such as Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte, Albay, and Sorsogon were already experiencing heavy rains with lightning and strong winds. We are preparing our emergency assets and relief items.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in the Philippines is on alert to support response efforts.

"The worst case are those areas which will be directly hit by strong winds that can topple houses, storm surges and heavy rains that can cause flooding, and there may be landslides in higher areas", Jalad said.

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The storm's current path has it passing through the Luzon Strait between the Philippines and southern Taiwan, before continuing on to Hong Kong and Macau.