A resident carries a matress inside a classroom used as evacuation center as Typhoon Mangkhut hits Philippines
A resident carries a matress inside a classroom used as evacuation center as Typhoon Mangkhut hits Philippines

Typhoon Mangkhut retained its ferocious strength and slightly shifted toward more densely populated coastal provinces on Friday as it barreled closer to the northeastern Philippines, where a massive evacuation was underway.

More than 4 million people are at risk from the storm, which the Hawaii-based Joint Typhoon Warning Center categorizes as a super typhoon with powerful winds and gusts equivalent to a category 5 Atlantic hurricane.

It was initially expected to hit the northern tip of Cagayan province early Saturday, but it’s now likely to make landfall farther south and closer to Isabela province then cut across the northern breadbasket, Philippine state forecaster Chris Perez told The Associated Press.

The change won’t make much difference because of the typhoon’s massive size, he said.

A huge raincloud band 900 kilometers (560 miles) wide, combined with seasonal monsoon rains, means the typhoon will bring heavy to intense rains that could set off landslides and flash floods.

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Warnings have been raised in 25 provinces across the main northern island of Luzon, restricting sea and air travel.

The typhoon is approaching at the start of the rice and corn harvesting season in Cagayan, a major agricultural producer, and farmers were scrambling to save what they could of their crops, Cagayan Gov. Manuel Mamba said.

The threat to agriculture comes as the Philippines tries to cope with rice shortages.

Mangkhut was tracked on Friday about 400 kilometers (250 miles) away in the Pacific with sustained winds of 205 kilometers (127 miles) per hour and gusts of up to 255 kph (158 mph), Philippine forecasters said.