When it made landfall in the Philippines Saturday morning at 1:40 a.m. local time, Mangkhut was packing winds of up to 270 kph (165 mph), 120 kph (75 mph) stronger than Hurricane Florence that hit North Carolina.
Thousands of people evacuated high-risk areas following major flooding and landslide warnings.
At daybreak in Cagayan's capital, Tuguegarao, Associated Press journalists saw a severely damaged public market, its roof ripped apart and wooden stalls and tarpaulin canopies in disarray.
The typhoon, which has a massive rain band 900 km wide, combined with seasonal monsoon rains, is expected to bring heavy to intense rains that could set off landslides and flash floods in affected areas.
Hong Kong issued its highest warning on Sunday (Sept 16) morning as the risky Super Typhoon Mangkhut bears down on China's Guangdong province, after leaving a path of destruction across the northern Philippines.
The current wind speeds of the colossal Pacific typhoon are up to 285 kilometers per hour (180 mph), which is equivalent to a Category 5 Hurricane. It was moving northwest at 15.5 miles per hour and was expected to leave the Philippines later that night.
'It can lift cars, you can't stand, you can't even crawl against that wind, ' Paciente said.
The Hong Kong Observatory issued a Storm Signal 10 at 9.40am on Sunday, the highest on scale.
Extensive crop damage is feared in the agricultural province of Cagayan. "But I think after Yolanda, after Haiyan [the global name for Yolanda], there were a lot of lessons that were learned in terms of preparedness, early warnings, preemptive evacuations. and this went a long way".
Ninia Grace Abedes abandoned her bamboo hut and hauled her four children to a school building serving as an emergency shelter.
According to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration, the powerful typhoon is expected to make landfall on the northern tip of Luzon.
"If we didn't, all of us would be dead", Abedes said.
But disaster officials said the country was now better prepared in terms of evacuating and informing high-risk communities, which had experienced a super typhoon in 2016 and knew what was coming.
The storm system is now moving at 30 kilometers per hour (19 miles per hour) towards the coast of western Guangdong, mainland China, according to the Hong Kong Observatory.
After the Philippines, the Hong Kong Observatory predicts Mangkhut will plough into the Chinese mainland early on Monday morning south of Hong Kong.
However, the typhoon has weakened slightly into a severe typhoon.
Officials in Hong Kong held emergency meetings Wednesday in which all departments were warned to have "their deployment and emergency response plans ready for the possible threats".
The skyline of the business district is silhouetted at sunset as typhoon Mangkhut is approaching Hong Kong Saturday.
Mangkhut's high winds churned rough seas as it moved across Luzon, producing waves almost 30 feet high, according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center.
Chinese authorities in Guangdong province have called back more than 30,000 fishing boats and taken precautions at two nuclear power plants that are in the storm's path.
Fujian province to the north of Guangdong is also closing beaches and tourist sites and preparing other measures depending on conditions, the agency reported.
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