A powerful typhoon is barreling toward Guam, prompting President Joe Biden to approve an emergency declaration for the U.S. territory.
Forecasters from the Joint Typhoon Warning Center project Super Typhoon Mawar could strike Guam Wednesday with winds of nearly 160 mph, which is equivalent to a Category 5 hurricane.
This could be the strongest, closest typhoon to hit the area in 20 years, with potentially catastrophic winds and life-threatening flooding.
"This is a very serious situation with steadily deteriorating conditions," Guam’s Office of Civil Defense said. "The triple threat of Category 4 typhoon force winds, torrential rains, and life-threatening storm surge are all expected for Guam. Large storm surge and coastal impacts are likely to occur, particularly for coastal areas."
President Biden issued the emergency declaration in response to the forecast, freeing up federal resources for the island of nearly 153,000 residents.
Guam Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero issued an executive order, calling for a mandatory evacuation of the territory's low-lying coastal areas. She called for those who don't live in fully concrete structures to seek emergency shelter elsewhere, and instructed the Guam National Guard to help in evacuation efforts.
Parts of the Northern Mariana Islands, which are also part of the U.S., are under tropical storm and typhoon warnings too, as the storm's center was moving north-northwest.
Mawar is called a typhoon instead of a hurricane based on Guam’s location in the western Pacific, and it was upgraded to a super typhoon because its winds reached at least 150 mph.
Super Typhoon Mawar comes nearly five years after Typhoon Mangkhut affected the region. Mangkhut largely spared Guam but directly hit Rota, the southernmost island of the Northern Mariana Islands chain. The typhoon destroyed 50 homes and damaged 175 homes.
Mawar could hit other regions as a super typhoon after it leaves Guam for the Philippine Sea. The National Weather Service says people in the northern Philippines, Taiwan and Japan should keep a watchful eye on the forecast next week.
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