Typhoon Mangkhut, the world’s most powerful storm this year, skidded into mainland China on Sunday after claiming at least 59 lives in the Philippines and pummeling Hong Kong and Macau during a devastating churn across the tropical-storm prone region.
Although the region remained on alert, the storm was expected to start dissipating after its Sunday landfall. In the Philippines, rescuers searched for victims of landslides responsible for most of the deaths there. In Hong Kong, emergency workers began cutting away trees that fell in major roadways, as the city began what will be a major cleanup.
Typhoon Mangkhut packed sustained winds as high as 170 miles an hour, equivalent to a Category 5 hurricane, according to the U.S. military’s joint Typhoon Warning Center. That is about twice the 90 mph winds generated by Hurricane Florence, which struck the U.S.
Videos were posted on Twitter showing the massive destruction hitting the Pearl River Delta megacity, one of the most densely populated areas in the world, with more than 50 million people.
As meteorologists expected, the storm formerly known as Hurricane Florence (it was downgraded to a tropical depression on Sunday after previously being cut to a tropical storm) is stubbornly lingering over the Carolinas and dumping an unceasing assault of warm ocean water on the state.
Radar showed that parts of the storm were impacting six states, but North and South Carolina remained in the bulls eye. The worst hit parts of North and South Carolina have already been inundated with more than two feet of rain, and forecasters are saying there could be an additional 1.5 feet before the end of day Sunday, according to the Associated Press. For this reason, disaster analysts have said the storm is expected to be the costliest in US history, with damages exceeding $170 billion.
While wind speeds have slackened to 35 mph from an initial windspeed of more than 90 mph when Florence first came ashore, the storm has continued its crawl west at 8 mph. At 5 am, the storm was centered about 20 miles southwest of Columbia, South Carolina.
Meteorologists forecast "catastrophic" flooding in both North and South Carolina, as some areas will be coated with more than 40 inches of rain, according to USA Today. Meanwhile, the death toll has risen to 15 people, and is expected to rise.
"These rainfall amounts will produce catastrophic flash flooding, prolonged significant river flooding and an elevated risk for landslides in western North Carolina and far southwest Virginia," the hurricane center warned.
Sections of two interstates, I-40 and I-95, were shut down due to flooding and debris. Several rivers were approaching record levels, and officials warned that cresting in some areas won't come until later in the week.