TAIPEI - A super typhoon that rapidly formed in just 48 hours is threatening both the Philippines and Taiwan with destructive winds and torrential rains over the coming days.
Kiko (international codename: Chanthu) was located 190 km east of Tuguegarao City, Cagayan as of 1 p.m., according to weather bureau PAGASA.
It is packing 195 kph winds near the center and gusts of up to 240 kph. "Strong winds or higher extend outwards up to 230 km from the center," PAGASA said.
The super typhoon is about 580 kilometers (360 miles) southeast of Taiwan's southernmost tip on Friday morning, packing gusts of up to 234 kilometers (145 miles) an hour, according to Taiwan's central weather bureau.
PAGASA warned of "destructive" winds in Santa Ana town, where around 35,000 people live, and the eastern part of the remote Babuyan Islands.
Tropical Cyclone Wind Signal #4 may be hoisted over portions of Babuyan Islands Friday afternoon.
Rough seas will throw up 2.5 to 10-meter waves, it added.
The following storm warning signals are hoisted in the following areas:
Tropical Cyclone Wind Signal #3(Destructive typhoon-force winds prevailing or expected within 18 hours)
The extreme northeastern portion of Cagayan (Santa Ana, Gonzaga), the eastern portion of Babuyan Islands (Babuyan Is., Didicas Is., Camiguin Is., Pamuktan Is., Calayan Is., Panulitan Is.), the southern portion of Batanes (Basco, Mahatao, Uyugan, Ivana, Sabtang)
TCWS#2(Damaging gale-force to storm-force winds prevailing or expected within 24 hours)
The rest of Batanes, the rest of Babuyan Islands, the remaining eastern portion of mainland Cagayan (Aparri, Camalaniugan, Lal-Lo, Gattaran, Baggao, Peñablanca, Buguey, Santa Teresita, Tuguegarao City, Iguig, Amulung, Alcala, Allacapan, Lasam, Ballesteros, Abulug), the northeastern portion of Isabela (San Pablo, Maconacon, Divilacan, Palanan), and the northeastern portion of Apayao (Flora, Santa Marcela, Luna, Pudtol)
TCWS#1(Strong winds prevailing or expected within 36 hours)
The rest of mainland Cagayan, the eastern portion of Ilocos Norte Ilocos Norte (Pagudpud, Adams, Dumalneg, Bangui, Vintar, Carasi, Nueva Era, Burgos, Pasuquin, Bacarra, Laoag City, Piddig, Solsona, Dingras, Sarrat, San Nicolas), the rest of Apayao, the northern portion of Kalinga (Balbalan, Pinukpuk, City of Tabuk, Rizal), the eastern portion of Mountain Province (Paracelis), the northeastern portion of Abra (Tineg, Lacub, Malibcong), the northwestern and southeastern portions of Isabela (Santa Maria, Quezon, Mallig, Roxas, San Manuel, Cabatuan, Aurora, City of Cauayan, Angadanan, San Guillermo, Dinapigue, San Mariano, Cabagan, Santo Tomas, Delfin Albano, Tumauini, Quirino, Burgos, Gamu, Ilagan City, Luna, Reina Mercedes, Naguilian, Benito Soliven), and the northern portion of Aurora (Dilasag, Casiguran)
The Cagayan governor has ordered government and private sector workers, except those in frontline services, to stay home and "fortify" their houses, said Rogelio Sending, the provincial information officer.
Most projections forecast the storm will then continue to swing northeast and could hit Taiwan directly over the weekend.
Meteorologists have marveled at how quickly Chanthu morphed into a powerful storm after it first emerged on Monday in between Guam and the Philippines.
"Chanthu went from a depression to a cat(egory)-5-equivalent typhoon in 48 hours," Sam Lillo, a researcher at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, wrote on Twitter.
Only five other storms, all this century, have done that, he added.
Over just two days, Chanthu's wind speeds went from 30 miles per hour to 160 miles per hour at their height.
Scientists have long warned that typhoons are becoming more powerful, and strengthening more rapidly, as the world becomes warmer because of man-made climate change.
"This week, Super Typhoon Chanthu provided another stark example of how quickly a storm can strengthen," NASA wrote in an article about the storm on its Earth Observatory blog.
A super typhoon is also known as a category five hurricane in the US. The Earth tends to experience around five storms of that power a year.
Meteorologists say that while Chanthu is powerful, it is small in size and will be unpredictable.
"Small tropical cyclones are capable of very rapid intensity changes, both strengthening and weakening," hurricane scientist Jeff Masters wrote on Yale Climate Connections.
Taiwan is regularly hit by tropical storms in the summer months.
In a rare exception to the rule, not a single typhoon made landfall last year, the first time in 56 years.
That helped fuel the worst drought in decades until heavy rains set in a few months ago and brought needed relief.
The Hong Kong Observatory's projection has Chanthu reducing from a super to a severe typhoon on Sunday as it nears Taiwan's southeastern coast.
© Agence France-Presse