US island territory of Guam braces for incoming typhoon

Shelters in the US territory are beginning to fill in anticipation of a powerful storm named Typhoon Mawar.

Typhoon Mawar seen in a satellite image
A satellite image released by NASA shows Typhoon Mawar approaching the United States island territory of Guam on May 23 [NASA via AP]

Authorities on the island of Guam have warned residents to take precautions as the remote US territory located in the Pacific Ocean prepares for a possible direct hit from an oncoming storm named Typhoon Mawar.

The National Weather Service (NWS) has warned that the storm could arrive in southern Guam at midday Wednesday local time, which is Tuesday evening in the mainland United States. Governor Lou Leon Guerrero has ordered the evacuation of residents in flood-prone areas.

“Mawar is a real threat and a possible direct hit to our island” Guerrero said in a message to residents on YouTube on Monday. “I am very concerned and worried about your safety, and I want you to take these warnings seriously.”

She also urged residents to remain calm.

US President Joe Biden approved an emergency declaration on Tuesday, freeing up federal assistance, while the NWS upgraded the storm to a Category 4 “super typhoon” that could see winds of more than 241 km/h (150 mph).

Authorities on the island that is home to about 150,000 people say that emergency shelters have begun to fill with residents, who have been warned to evacuate if their homes are made of anything but concrete. Many homes are made of wood and tin.

The NWS said that the storm could bring a “triple threat” of high winds, rain, and a strong storm surge to the island. Patrick Doll, the lead weather service meteorologist in Tiyan, Guam, told the Associated Press that the storm has the potential to cause “extensive damage”.

A storm surge of 2 to 3 metres (6.5 to 10 feet) above the normal high tide was expected and could reach as high as 4.5m (15ft). Surf was expected to build sharply in the next day or two along south- and east-facing reefs, with dangerous surf of 6 to 7.5 metres (20 to 25 feet) Tuesday afternoon into Wednesday, the weather service said.

Rota, an island in the US Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, was also under a typhoon warning, Doll said. Tinian and Saipan, in the Northern Marianas, were under tropical storm warnings.

Some people in those areas are still in temporary shelters or tents after Category 5 Super Typhoon Yutu in 2018, Doll noted.

The Pacific Daily News reported that, on Monday, residents of Guam shopped at grocery stores for essential provisions such as water, canned foods, and electricity generators.

“Guam takes a Category 4 or 5 hit every five to seven years. Mother Nature has spared us as of late,” Doll told the Associated Press, noting that the last “direct hit” took place in 2002. “So we are way overdue.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies