Super Typhoon Yutu is on its way to Southeast Asia, after devastating part of the commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. “Many homes have been destroyed,” says the mayor of Tinian, an island in the U.S. Pacific territory.
Yutu brought sustained winds of at least 165 to 175 mph when it passed directly over the islands of Tinian and Saipan on Wednesday. As it heads west, it was still packing winds of 165 mph — an intensity that it is expected to maintain through Friday, according to emergency officials in the Marianas.
“We just went through one of the worst storms I’ve seen,” Gerald J. Deleon Guerrero, a special assistant with the Northern Mariana Islands’ emergency management agency, said in a bulletin about the storm.
Yutu is now heading west-northwest toward the northern portion of the Philippines. Weather officials in Taiwan are also monitoring the storm.
Outlying parts of the Philippines could see its first tropical cyclone warning “as early as Monday morning,” the country’s weather agency says.
By that time, the storm’s name will likely have changed. Yutu was initially named by the Japan Meteorological Agency — but the Philippines has its own naming system, and when Yutu crosses into the country’s area of responsibility in the Pacific Ocean, it will be renamed Rosita.
On Tinian, Mayor Joey San Nicolas said in a video posted to Facebook that the island “has been devastated.”
“Our critical infrastructure has been compromised, we currently have no power and water.”
The island’s ports and other points are inaccessible, San Nicolas said, adding that emergency crews are working to help people who need to leave their homes and move into shelters.
“We have been hit hard,” San Nicolas said. As he spoke, water could be heard dripping in his office.
The rebuilding process will be long and tough, says Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan, the commonwealth’s delegate to Congress.
“There’s a lot of damage and destruction,” Sablan said in an interview with The Associated Press from Saipan. “It’s like a small war just passed through.”
The powerful storm tore up roofs and downed trees and power lines in the Marianas. Describing the emergency response, Guerrero said, “Our focus is on deploying resources to clear our roadways so first responders can begin assisting residents who have lost their homes and for those who need transport to seek medical attention or transportation to the nearest shelter.”
Yutu slammed into the Mariana Islands weeks after Typhoon Mangkhut caused President Trump to issue a major disaster declaration for the of Rota, Saipan, and Tinian.
A cyclone becomes a super typhoon when its winds top 150 mph — making it the equivalent of a Category 4 or 5 hurricane, according to the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. Yutu is expected to maintain that status easily. The powerful storm is now heading west-northwest toward the Philippines and Taiwan, possibly arriving there by the middle of next week, according to Japanese broadcaster NHK.