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Over two dozen people have died and widespread damage reported as the monster Typhoon Mangkhut crashed into the northern Philippines coast and Taiwan. The storm is also expected to hit Hong Kong and southern China.
Super Typhoon Mangkhut — the strongest storm this year — made landfall early on Saturday, according to officials in the Philippines.
Fierce winds and heavy rains ripped off rooftops, toppled trees and lampposts, and cut power to more than 4 million people across Cagayan province on Luzon island, some 300 kilometers (186 miles) north of Manila, local media reported.
Mangkhut battered the area with maximum winds of 205 kilometers per hour (127 miles per hour) and gusts of up to 285 kilometers per hour.
Over a dozen people killed
At least 25 people died in the northern Philippines including an infant and another child who were killed in a landslide in the province of Nueva Vizcaya, according to a presidential adviser, who suggested the death toll could climb.
Two rescue workers were killed while responding to landslides caused by the typhoon; a dead body was also found in a Manila river.
Further north, in Taiwan, the government said one woman was killed after being swept away by high waves.
Although the island didn't feel the full force of the typhoon, officials warned residents to expect heavy rain, strong winds and tall waves for the rest of the weekend.
A massive evacuation got underway earlier as the typhoon barreled toward the Philippines. About 5 million people there are at risk from the storm, according to the Hawaii-based Joint Typhoon Warning Center.
The center downgraded the typhoon to the equivalent of a category 4 Atlantic hurricane. It has a huge raincloud about 900 kilometers (560 miles) wide.
'You can't even crawl'
Philippines government forecaster Rene Paciente issued a warning about the force of the winds: "It can lift cars, you can't stand, you can't even crawl against that wind."
Paciente also cautioned residents that even if the typhoon weakens after making landfall, it will remain incredibly destructive.
Those who live in the typhoon's projected path and cannot flee have been reinforcing their homes and stocking up on food.
The typhoon struck at the start of the rice and corn harvesting season in the region, prompting farmers to scramble to save what they could of their crops, said the local governor, Manuel Mamba.
China on alert
Southeastern China has also been taking precautions, as the typhoon is expected to reach its mainland by Monday morning. More than 3,000 shelters have been set up in the southern Guangdong province, and more than 100,000 residents and tourists have either been moved to safety or sent home.
In Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific airlines said all flights on Sunday would remain grounded.
The area has seen its share of catastrophic typhoons in recent years, the most severe of which was Typhoon Haiyan in 2013. More than 7,300 people in the Philippines were killed, entire villages were destroyed, and more than 5 million people were displaced.
mm/jm (AP, dpa)