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‘Catastrophic’ Typhoon Yutu Slams Into U.S. Commonwealth in the Pacific

The storm was the equivalent of a Category 5 hurricane when it destroyed homes in the Northern Mariana Islands, which are northeast of Guam in the western Pacific Ocean.

© Glen Hunter, via, Associated Press Damage from Super Typhoon Yutu in Saipan, the most populated of the Northern Mariana Islands.

By JACEY FORTIN, The New York Times

A devastating super typhoon slammed the Northern Mariana Islands starting late Wednesday, destroying more than 100 homes in what meteorologists said could be the strongest storm to have struck the United States this year.

The Northern Mariana Islands, a United States commonwealth in the Pacific Ocean, northeast of Guam, include Saipan, Tinian and Rota. They are home to more than 52,000 people, the vast majority of whom live in Saipan.

The eye of the storm, called Yutu, passed directly over Tinian around 2 a.m. local time on Thursday — the islands are 14 hours ahead of the East Coast — with wind speeds reaching 180 m.p.h. or more, the equivalent of a Category 5 hurricane.

Later Thursday morning, typhoon warnings were still in effect as reports of the overnight damage rolled in. About 100 homes had been destroyed in Tinian, Brandon Aydlett, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said in a phone call from Guam. He added that in Saipan, there were reports of collapsed roofs, fallen power lines and decimated trees.

“I would say this is catastrophic damage,” Mr. Aydlett said, adding that there had been many requests for emergency shelter and medical care but he did not have concrete information on the number of injuries or fatalities.

President Trump declared an emergency in the Northern Mariana Islands and authorized the Federal Emergency Management Agency to begin disaster relief efforts.

Some FEMA workers had arrived in the commonwealth by Thursday morning, said Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan, the commonwealth’s delegate in the House of Representatives, in a series of posts on Twitter. He added that ports were closed, many flights were canceled, several shelters were filling up, and some health care facilities had been damaged or were running on generator power. He warned residents to stay indoors if possible.

The storm is now moving northwest, away from the islands, but residents should still watch out for sudden gusts, bands of rain and large ocean swells, Mr. Aydlett said, adding that the recovery period from damage already incurred by strong winds was likely to be long.

“Most people we’ve talked to have no prior storms to compare this one to,” he said. “I believe that Yutu will become a storm that future storms will be compared to.”

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World News: ‘Catastrophic’ Typhoon Yutu Slams Into U.S. Commonwealth in the Pacific
‘Catastrophic’ Typhoon Yutu Slams Into U.S. Commonwealth in the Pacific
The storm was the equivalent of a Category 5 hurricane when it destroyed homes in the Northern Mariana Islands, which are northeast of Guam in the western Pacific Ocean.
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