Anybody flying to or from East Asia this week will have seen a powerful storm on the horizon.
Typhoon Mangkhut, the strongest storm to hit the region this year, is due to make landfall on the Philippine island of Luzon on Saturday 15 September, before continuing onto southern China and Hong Kong if it continues on its current course.
It’s already barrelled through Guam and the Marshall Islands.
What is Typhoon Mangkhut?
Also referred to as Typhoon Ompong in the Philippines, the superstorm is expected to make landfall in the Cagayan-Isabela area of the Philippines on Saturday in the early morning.
According to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration, the storm is packing a maximum wind speed of 205kph near the centre, with gusts of up to 255 kph.
There will be heavy rainfall over the northern Philippines, bringing with it potential landslides and flash floods on 14-15 September.
After battering the northern Philippines, Mangkhut is expected to head towards Southern China and Hong Kong on Sunday 16 September. The Hong Kong Observatory warns that the storm is “expected to remain in the category of super typhoon after entering the South China Sea”.
The weather agency adds: “Although there are still uncertainties in the subsequent track of Mangkhut and its distance from Hong Kong, Mangkhut’s extensive circulation will bring significantly deteriorating weather to Hong Kong on Sunday with frequent heavy, squally showers. Seas will be very rough with swells and low-lying areas may be affected by storm surge.”
The former director of the Hong Kong Observatory, Lam Chiu-ying, said that the storm could “constitute a great danger to Hong Kong”, according to the South China Morning Post.
Asia’s typhoon season typically runs from April to October, with the Philippines, Taiwan, Japan and southern and eastern China the worst affected areas.
What are the implications for travel to the region?
Airlines operating in the region have cancelled flights this weekend.
Philippine Airlines, whose hub is in Manila, has cancelled a suite of flights for Friday 14 and Saturday 15 September – mainly from the capital to other cities in northern Luzon.
Budget carrier Cebu Pacific has followed suit. Both airlines have advised passengers to check whether their flight is running before heading to the airport.
Passengers on both airlines can rebook flights within 30 days of the original departure date for free.
The Foreign Office advises: “If you’re in the area you should monitor the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration and local news coverage and follow the advice of the local authorities.”
Hong Kong’s flagship carrier Cathay Pacific said in an advisory note that “conditions for flight operations are very likely to deteriorate” and that passengers should expect delays and cancellations this weekend. The airline is asking passengers travelling on 14-15 September to rebook for free.
On 11 September, the Foreign Office updated its guidance to Hong Kong – a popular holiday destination for Brits – advising that “typhoon Mangkhut is forecast to bring hazardous sea and weather conditions to Hong Kong from around Sunday 16 September”.
Other Hong Kong-based carriers, including Hong Kong Airlines and Hong Kong Express, are also waiving rebooking fees for flights booked for this weekend.
Check the airlines’ websites for more information.