Winds intensify as Super Typhoon Mawar batters Guam

Trees sway in strong winds from typhoon Mawar in Tamuning, Guam, May 24, 2023 in this still image obtained from social media video. Video taken through a window. Instagram @rachel.j_____/via REUTERS

(Reuters) -The most powerful typhoon to hit Guam in years slowly passed over the Western Pacific island on Thursday after battering the U.S. territory with intensifying wind gusts of up to 150 miles per hour (240 km per hour) and torrential rain.

Early reports following daybreak on Thursday had yet to show any deaths or serious injury, but news was slow to come in after power was knocked out for all but 1,000 of the island’s 52,000 homes and businesses, according to the Guam Power Authority.

The eye of Super Typhoon Mawar tracked just north of Guam early Thursday, moving northwest at a sluggish 8 mph (13 kph), delivering rainfall of up to 2 inches (5 cm) per hour overnight, the U.S. National Weather Service (NWS) said.

Images posted on social media showed ominous clouds drifting over beaches, rains lashing buildings and winds bending palm trees.

Wind speeds placed the storm in Category 4, the second-strongest designation on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind scale, and just short of Category 5.

Danger persisted even as the storm moved away from Guam, home to about 170,000 people including about 10,000 U.S. military personnel, the NWS said.

“We’re still a little bit concerned about some of these outer bands. As this thing is intensifying, the wind field is increasing faster than the motion away from the island,” said Landon Aydlett, the warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Guam.

But people in Guam take typhoons seriously and typically hunker down in reinforced concrete structures, Aydlett said.

Guam Governor Lou Leon Guerrero promised in a social media post to provide an update as soon as officials were safely able to survey the damage.

“I ask you to please stay home until I declare Condition of Readiness 4,” she said in the video. The island remained at COR 1 at daybreak.

She has compared the storm to 1962’s Typhoon Karen, which flattened much of the island.

A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said U.S. Navy ships were headed to Guam to help with recovery efforts if needed.

President Joe Biden, who has approved an emergency declaration authorizing federal assistance for Guam, was briefed on the typhoon, White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre said on Wednesday.

“The White House is in close contact with the government of Guam and has offered as much support as needed to this tragic, tragic major storm,” Jean-Pierre said.

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