TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — The most powerful typhoon of the year approached the northern Philippines and southern Taiwan on Friday with ferocious gusts of up to 296 kilometers (184 miles) per hour. It was expected to skirt both regions, but authorities warned of torrential rains and destructive winds.
Super Typhoon Usagi had maximum sustained winds of 240 kph (150 mph) on Friday evening and was about 600 kilometers (373 miles) 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 kph (150 mph).
The huge storm was on track to pass near the Batanes Islands, the northernmost part of the Philippines, as it moved 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 push on toward southern China, with its outer bands slamming into 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 kph (98 mph).
Usagi had a massive diameter of 1,100 kilometers (680 miles), with its outer rain bands extending across the main northern Philippine island of Luzon and southern Taiwan. Forecasters predicted 24-hour rainfall accumulation of 500 millimeters (nearly 20 inches) near its center.
In the Philippines, the Batanes Islands were placed under the highest storm alert, while lower warnings were raised in at least 15 northern provinces where officials warned of flash floods, landslides and storm surges.