Southern China braces for Typhoon Megi

Residents scramble to stockpile food and authorities order ships to remain docked as southern China gears up for a typhoon that killed 15 people in the northern Philippines.

Residents scrambled to stockpile food and authorities ordered ships to remain docked as southern China geared up Wednesday for a typhoon after it killed 15 people and wiped out crops in the northern Philippines.

Typhoon Megi lost power after it slammed into the northern Philippines on Monday but was expected to build back up by Thursday as it slowly travelled toward the southern Chinese coast for its expected landfall on Saturday, the Hong Kong Observatory said.

The storm packed winds of 225 km/h when it struck the Philippines on Monday — but the country escaped severe casualties because of what authorities cited as their thorough evacuations and other emergency preparations in the sparsely populated areas.

Lorendo Gines surveys the damage to his house in Ilagan township on Wednesday after the concrete wall of a business collapsed when typhoon Megi barrelled through the northeastern Philippines.

Philippine officials reported 15 dead in Cagayan, Isabela and Pangasinan provinces, including several people who drowned after being pinned by fallen trees. The storm damaged thousands of homes, and flooded vast areas of rice and corn fields.

On Wednesday, Megi had nearly stalled in the South China Sea about 350 kilometres west of Luzon Island, packing maximum winds of 175 kilometres per hour and gusts of up to 210 km/h, but was forecast to move on after about 12 hours, according to the Philippine weather bureau.

The typhoon was expected to make its next landfall on the central or western coast of China's Guangdong province, the Guangdong Meteorological Bureau said on its website. The Hong Kong Observatory said it was expected to develop winds of more than 185 km/h — or super typhoon strength — by Thursday.

Super typhoon

Typhoons in the western Pacific Ocean are called 'super typhoons' once their sustained winds reach 240 km/h, which is the equivalent of a Category 4 or Category 5 hurricane, CBC meteorologist Johanna Wagstaffe says.

Wagstaffe said it wasn't immediately clear whether Megi was a super typhoon or simply a very strong typhoon when it made landfall in the Philippines, but she said it was 'definitely well within the super typhoon range at some point.'

In Guangdong, officials ordered all fishing boats to return by the end of Tuesday, put the provincial flood control headquarters on alert and warned reservoirs to watch their water levels, China's official Xinhua News Agency reported. In the southern island province of Hainan, residents in the provincial capital Haikou rushed to supermarkets to stock up on food, vegetables and bottled water, Xinhua said.

In Hong Kong, locals prepared to cancel activities this weekend but the mood was calm.

No evacuations have been ordered so far in the densely populated city whose infrastructure has traditionally held up well against the annual summer barrage of typhoons. The weather was cloudy on Wednesday but the Hong Kong Observatory has predicted intensifying winds and torrential rains over the next few days.

Local media warned residents to prepare for the worst, with the Apple Daily declaring in a front-page headline, "The strongest typhoon in history, Megi, rushing toward Hong Kong."

In the Philippines, more than 215,000 people were affected by the typhoon, including 10,300 people who fled to evacuation centres, officials said. Infrastructure and crops were damaged, and nearly 5,000 houses were damaged or destroyed by Megi's ferocious wind, according to the government's main disaster-response agency said. 

With files from CBC News