Hong Kong (CNN)Super Typhoon Mangkhut made landfall early Saturday in the northern Philippines, bringing with it gale-force winds and pounding rains as aid agencies warn millions are at risk.
Known locally as Ompong, Mangkhut is lashing the northern parts of Luzon Island as it heads west into the South China Sea and toward Hong Kong and southern China.
Mangkhut made landfall in far northeastern Luzon in Cagayan province about 2:30 a.m. local time Saturday and is heading over far Northern Luzon. It has maximum sustained winds of 270 kilometers per hour (165 mph), with gusts as high as 325 kilometers per hour (200 mph), the equivalent of a Category 5 hurricane. As Mangkhut passes over land it is expected to weaken.
In Cagayan’s capital city of Tuguegarao, heavy rain and strong winds lashed buildings, pulling off signage and throwing debris into the air.
The Philippines Red Cross said waters were rising in parts of the city. Video on social media showed people in the city wading through ankle deep water, amid torrential rains.
Many of those in Northern Luzon live in isolated farming communities. There are fears the typhoon could lead to flash flooding in more rural areas, triggering landslides.
“All things being equal, Mangkhut is a bigger, stronger and more dangerous storm” than Hurricane Florence, a Category 1 storm battering the US Southeast coast, CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller said. “Any land hit directly would see more significant and destructive impacts from the super typhoon due to its size and intensity.”
An estimated 5.2 million people are within 125 kilometers (77 miles) of the projected path of the Super Typhoon, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.
On Friday, parts of Luzon were placed under Tropical Cyclone Warning Signal No. 4 by the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration, meaning those areas could expect winds of up to 185 kilometers per hour (114 mph) that could uproot trees, destroy crops, take out electricity and damage buildings.
The agency warned of storm surges up to 19 feet along the Cagayan and Isabela province coastlines.
Most of the rest of the island is under Signal No. 3, meaning it can expect winds of up to 100 kilometers per hour (62 mph) and significant risk to trees, crops and structures. Parts of the island are also at risk of flooding due to heavy rains.
Mangkhut is on track to be as strong as Super Typhoon Haiyan, which left more than 6,000 people dead in the Philippines in 2013, though that storm hit a more populated part of the country.
Northern Luzon was also devastated in 2016 by Super Typhoon Haima, with 14,000 houses destroyed and 50,000 homes damaged, according to CNN Philippines.
“We are bracing for the worst here,” said Lanelyn Carrillo, a spokeswoman for World Vision, a humanitarian organization. “There is a sense of fear that we might be facing a storm as bad as Haiyan or Haima.”
As of Friday morning, 2,298 families had been preemptively evacuated from their homes in Ilocos, Cagayan Valley and Cordillera administrative regions in northern Luzon.
Gov. Bojie Dy reports more than 5,000 people have been evacuated from coastal areas in Isabela province.
The Philippines Red Cross said it had activated 30,000 volunteers across Luzon to prepare for the impact of the storm and dispatched a “humanitarian caravan” consisting of rescue and relief vehicles to the parts of the island expected to be among the worst affected.
“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.”
Officials told CNN Philippines the cost to rice and corn crops could be upward of $116 million, with more than 1,220,000 hectares of fields expected to be damaged by the storm.
Southern China braces for impact
Once it passes over the Philippines, Mangkhut will continue west through the Luzon Strait into the South China Sea, making expected landfall early Sunday in southern China.
The Hong Kong Observatory said it is still likely to be at super-typhoon level as it nears that city and Macau, bringing with it winds of up to 195 kilometers per hour (120 mph), equivalent to a Category 3 hurricane.
Mangkhut could be one of the strongest storms to have an impact on Hong Kong in more than six decades. The typhoon will make its closest pass to Hong Kong during the day on Sunday, likely during the afternoon.
Officials in Hong Kong held emergency meetings Friday, and residents in low-lying areas and outlying islands have been urged to move to temporary shelters.
Macau’s Meteorological and Geophysical Bureau warned that Manghkut would “pose a serious threat” to the Pearl River Delta, where the city is located.
Last year, 10 people died in Macau as a result of Typhoon Hato, the strongest storm to hit the city in more than five decades. It caused widespread flooding and damage to property.
Typhoon Mangkhut will make another landfall on Sunday night in western Guangdong, China.