The most powerful typhoon of the year was approaching the northern Philippines and southern Taiwan on Friday with ferocious wind gusts of up to 296 kilometres per hour. It was expected to skirt both regions, with authorities warning of torrential rains and destructive winds.
Super Typhoon Usagi had maximum sustained winds of 240 km/h on Friday evening and was about 600 kilometres southeast of Taipei, Taiwan's capital, according to the U.S. Navy's Joint Typhoon Warning Center. A storm achieves super typhoon status when its sustained winds are at least 240 km/h.
The huge storm was on track to pass near the Batanes Islands, the northernmost part of the Philippines, as it moves across the Luzon Strait, close to Taiwan's southernmost Hengchun peninsula.
In Taiwan, hundreds of people were evacuated from flood-prone areas near cities and in remote mountainous regions. Torrential rains were forecast for all of the eastern coast and the south.
Usagi was projected to move toward southern China, with the outer bands reaching near the Guangdong-Hong Kong coastline on Sunday. The storm is expected to weaken, and by Sunday is projected to have maximum sustained winds of 158 km/h.
Usagi had a massive diameter of 1,100 kilometres, with its outer rain bands extending across the main northern Philippine island of Luzon and southern Taiwan. It was packing 24-hour rainfall accumulation of 500 millimetres near its centre.
In the Philippines, the Batanes Islands were placed under the highest storm alert, while lower warnings were raised in at least 15 northern Philippine provinces, where officials warned of flash floods, landslides and storm surges.