Powerful typhoon skirts Taiwan, north Philippines

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — The most powerful typhoon this year approached a group of small islands between southern Taiwan and the northern Philippines on Friday with ferocious winds of 205 kilometers (127 miles) per hour, and authorities warned that the region faces torrential rains and destructive gusts.

Typhoon Usagi was on track to pass near Batanes Islands, the northernmost part of the Philippines, as it moves across the Luzon Strait close to Taiwan’s southernmost Hengchun peninsula.

Weather forecasters project it will pass south of Taiwan and move toward southern China, hitting shore near the Guangdong-Hong Kong coastline on Monday morning.

They say it is a very large tropical typhoon with a diameter of 1,100 kilometers (680 miles). Its outer rain bands were extending across the main northern Philippine island of Luzon and southern Taiwan and strong winds outward up to 220 kilometers (135 miles).

It is packing the 24-hour rainfall accumulation of 500 millimeters (nearly 20 inches) near the center of the typhoon.

Philippine weather bureau forecaster Alvin Pura said that the typhoon had gathered strength and speed with gustiness of 240 kph (150 mph).

The Batanes Islands, population 16,000, were placed under the highest storm alert, while lower warnings were raised in at least 15 northern provinces where officials warned of flash floods, landslides and storm surges.

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