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Typhoon Mawar set for direct hit on Guam

A satellite image showing Typhoon Mawar, as it approaches Guam . ©AFP

Los Angeles (AFP) - Typhoon Mawar was expected to pass directly over the US territory of Guam on Wednesday, bringing potentially catastrophic winds to the Pacific military outpost.

The storm was packing maximum sustained winds of 140 miles per hour (225 kilometers per hour), making it a dangerous Category Four typhoon, forecasters said.

Local authorities issued evacuation orders and opened temporary shelters, and US President Joe Biden declared a state of emergency on the island of 170,000 people, paving the way for federal aid.

"I am in a concrete reinforced house and my windows are shuttered.I did go outside briefly and winds are getting very gusty with intermittent rains," Beckie Merrill, a 46-year-old middle school teacher, told AFP from a southern area of the island.

As of 1:31 pm Wednesday local time (0331 GMT), the storm was 45 miles (70 kilometers) southeast of the island, the National Weather Service (NWS) office in Guam said in an advisory.

"The current track of Mawar shows a high probability of the eye passing over Guam," the NWS said, adding that conditions were gradually deteriorating across the island.

A flash flood warning had been issued for the island and winds of 74 miles per hour had already been recorded, forecasters said.

"I am worried for the safety of our people.This is the first storm of this magnitude for 20 years," Guam Governor Lou Leon Guerrero said.

Mawar lost its super typhoon status when its sustained winds fell below 150 mph but the NWS said it "may strengthen slightly on approach to Guam."

Coastal evacuations

Evacuations were ordered for low-lying coastal areas, especially in the flood-prone southern villages.

The NWS warned of the "triple threats" of torrential rains, catastrophic wind and life-threatening storm surge.

Winds near the eye wall could bring major damage to buildings and homes made of light materials, such as non-concrete roofs and walls that are not made of reinforced concrete.

A calamitous storm surge threatens to wreak havoc on shorelines, and large boats "could be torn from moorings."

"Surge may reach to between 20 and 25 feet above normal high tide for the most vulnerable storm surge prone areas near the eye wall," the NWS said.

Forecasts predicted Guam will receive rainfall of 10 to 15 inches, with some areas experiencing 20 inches or more, the NWS said.

These in turn could trigger landslides in the central and southern parts of the island, the weather service warned.

"Residents who are in need of shelter need to seek shelter no later than 9AM as we expect the storm to intensify in the next few hours," Guerrero said in a Facebook post.

People have been asked to stay inside and away from windows, and not venture outside during temporary lulls as flying debris can cause serious injury.

Guam's Office of Civil Defense urged motorists to stay off the roads on Wednesday, saying "winds are expected to intensify to typhoon force winds by midday."

About 21,700 US military personnel and their families are based at or near several facilities on Guam, which routinely hosts nuclear attack submarines and long-range bombers.

It is also home to crucial electronic listening posts.

The US bases also have some of the Pacific region's most significant ammunition and fuel storage facilities.

About 60 flights departing from or arriving in Guam and scheduled between Tuesday and Thursday have been canceled, A.B.Won Pat International Airport said.

Conditions are expected to improve on Thursday.

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