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Typhoon Mawar heads for Guam; risk of floods, landslides


Punishing winds battered Guam on Wednesday as one of the worst storms in decades bore down on the Pacific US territory, prompting authorities to issue flash flood and extreme wind warnings and ask residents to shelter indoors.

“Many of us are right now feeling the full force of Typhoon Mawar,” Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero (D) said around 4 p.m. local time, calling it “a terrifying experience not felt in over two decades.”

National Weather Service officials said at an afternoon briefing Wednesday that they expect the storm to pass over central Guam between 17.00 and 19.00 local time.

The service also issued a warning of “extremely dangerous hurricane-force winds” covering the northern part of the island until 6 p.m. 6:45 p.m. and urged residents to act “as if a tornado was approaching.”

Doors rattled, trees were uprooted and power poles downed as Mawar, a typhoon packing intense rain and winds of up to 140 mph, approached the island. It weakened from Category 5 strength as it approached the region, but it was still at Category 4 strength and approaching typhoon strength conditions as of 1 p.m. 1:30 p.m. local time, according to the Weather Service.

Ahead of the storm, some US Coast Guard ships sailed away from the territory – a hub for US forces in the Pacific – as a precaution, while other vessels were towed from the water or tied up in rough weather.

Guam braces against flooding, landslides and strong winds from Typhoon Mawar

President Biden also approved an emergency declaration ordering federal authorities to support the local response to the typhoon.

Guerrero on Tuesday ordered residents in low-lying coastal and flood-prone areas to evacuate to higher ground. Officials also urged people living in houses made of thinner materials, including wood and tin, to consider moving to emergency shelters. Landslides are a big risk.

Guam has a population of just over 150,000 people, many of whom live in villages scattered around the coast. Initially, the southern villages of Inalahan, Ipan, Talofofo, Malesso, Hagat and Humatak were particularly threatened by a severe sea storm surge in addition to damaging winds, although weather officials later adjusted their forecasts, saying a change in wind direction meant the likely path of the storm would bring rising water levels and surf along the western and northern sides of Guam.

Residents stocked up on groceries and fresh water as authorities predicted power and water could be lost across the island, perhaps for days.

Guam has a long record of tropical storms. Typhoon Karen, a Category 5 typhoon in 1962, killed 11 people and left thousands homeless. Typhoon Omar hit the island in 1992, injuring dozens of people, destroying homes and cutting power across the island, while Typhoon Pongsona, a Category 4 storm, hit in 2002.

Weather officials expect tropical storm-force winds to continue through Thursday morning, urging residents to stay in their homes and shelters until then.

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