The massive storm is the equivalent of a Category 5 hurricane, which at its peak Wednesday became the strongest storm of 2018 with winds of 285 kph (180 mph).
Countries across east and southeast Asia are issuing emergency alerts and ordering evacuations as both Mangkhut and a second storm, Typhoon Barijat hit the region.
“All things being equal, Mangkhut is a bigger, stronger and more dangerous storm” than Florence, said CNN Meteorologist Brandon Miller. “Any land hit directly would see more significant and destructive impacts from the Super Typhoon due to its size and intensity.”
However, he added that the extent of the destruction caused by a hurricane or typhoon depends on what it hits, and the US east coast is “much more populated with significantly more infrastructure to damage.”
“Therefore Florence will almost certainly be a more ‘damaging hurricane’ — but Mangkhut presents a more serious threat to life considering it will hit with stronger winds, over a larger area, and have higher storm surge,” Miller said.
The Red Cross said it had put teams on the highest level of alert across the island, warning that high winds and torrential rains could cause widespread damage to islands and coastal areas of Luzon.
“We’re worried for the 10 million people in the Philippines living in the path of this destructive storm, including those who have been displaced several times due to the monsoon rains last July and August,” Richard Gordon, chairman of the Philippines Red Cross, said in a statement. “We are preparing our emergency assets and relief items. Our staff and volunteers are on high alert for possible deployment.”
‘Widespread damage’ expected
As of early Thursday morning, both cities still had warning signals raised for the comparatively small Typhoon Barijat, as it passed over the Pearl River Delta into mainland China.
Officials in Hong Kong held emergency meetings Wednesday, in which all departments were warned to have “their deployment and emergency response plans ready for the possible threats that may be brought to Hong Kong by Super Typhoon Mangkhut.”
Last year, 10 people died in Macau as a result of Typhoon Hato, the strongest storm to hit the city in over five decades, which also caused widespread flooding and damage to property.
Multiple Hong Kong airlines, including flag carrier Cathay Pacific, have announced they will waive charges for rebooking or re-routing flights arriving or departing the city during the worst of the storm.
Queenie Lam, a senior scientific officer at the Hong Kong Observatory, told CNN that Mangkhut was “expected to pose a considerable threat to the coast of Guangdong” in southern China and would bring gale force winds to Hong Kong.
She said HKO expects to lift the T8 warning signal as the storm nears the city, the second highest in severity.