Personnel at a disaster management center in Quezon City, Philippines, monitor the progress of Typhoon Mangkhut on Thursday. Photo by Rolex Dela Pena/EPA-EFE
Sept. 13 (UPI) — The Philippines began evacuations Thursday ahead of the arrival of Typhoon Mangkhut, which forecasters say is the equivalent of a Category 5 hurricane.

The storm, known locally as Ompong, had winds of 127 mph and gusts of 158 mph as it crossed the western Pacific Ocean, leaving Guam with flooding widespread power outages.

The storm, the strongest of more than a dozen to reach the Philippines this year, is forecast to make landfall on Luzon Saturday, the country’s largest and most populous island.

The typhoon is expected to move on to Taiwan, Hong Kong and southern China by Sunday, where it could affect more than 43 million people before it starts to weaken.

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Mangkhut could bring 20-foot storm surges along Luzon’s eastern and northern coasts, Philippines forecaster Vincente Malano said.

Rainfall of 6 to 10 inches, which experts say could trigger mudslides and life-threatening flooding, is predicted.

Damaging winds and torrential rain is expected in northern and central Luzon. Meteorologists advised coastal residents to evacuate to higher ground.

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A growing number of areas have been placed under “Storm Signal No. 1,” an indication severe weather is approaching within 36 hours. One area, Isabela province in eastern Luzon, is under a “Signal No. 2” warning, meaning such weather is expected within 24 hours.

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